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Napoles told: Talk or die

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Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Thursday left her sickbed to give Janet Lim-Napoles that advice as the alleged mastermind behind the pork barrel scam clammed up on the involvement of lawmakers and government officials in the theft of P10 billion in government funds over the last 10 years.

 

Wearing a bulletproof vest, Napoles was taken from her detention center in a convoy guarded by rifle-toting policemen, and she was warned at the opening of the Senate blue ribbon committee inquiry into the pork barrel scam that she had good reason to fear being killed.

Napoles proclaimed her innocence, but refused to talk about the alleged involvement of lawmakers in the racket for which she, three senators and 34 other people, including five former congressmen and five ex-agency chiefs, are now facing plunder charges in the Office of the Ombudsman.

Santiago said the senators accused of plunder with her were hoping to kill her to ensure she did not testify against them.

“Tell the truth before the senators affected have you assassinated, that is your path to safety,” Santiago said.

 

Blanket denial

Santiago may have failed to get Napoles to squeal on the lawmakers, but managed to get her to take back her blanket denial of having anything to do with the legislators.

Santiago appeared at the hearing to lecture Napoles on the right against self-incrimination.

“Many people want you dead. That’s why I’m telling you as a lawyer to tell us what you want to say so that they can no longer have you killed,” Santiago told Napoles.

She told Napoles that those involved in the scam would continue to see her as a threat as long as she remained silent.

Santiago told her that she could easily change her mind and rat on her alleged conspirators.

Strong evidence

“But if you tell us [what you know] now, they will no longer have a motive to kill you because your motive is already there. And that is under oath, affidavit or even a dying declaration, for all you know, and a dying declaration is very strong evidence,” Santiago said.

The senator has been on an extended medical leave from the Senate because of chronic fatigue.

But she announced on Twitter on Wednesday night that she would attend Thursday’s hearing to “show [Napoles] she cannot take advantage of the right against self-incrimination.”

And at the hearing, she told her that the lawmakers involved wanted her dead.

“They’re not only homicidal, they are also murderous. They’re planning on murder. So, while it is still early tell us who’s the most guilty among those involved,” Santiago said.

But Napoles replied in Filipino, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? I know.  Because his empire is quite wide,” Santiago said.

 

Not most guilty

Santiago told Napoles that she couldn’t have been the most guilty in the pork barrel scam because she lacked “sophistication.”

“You’re not exposed to sophisticated lifestyle like in Metro Manila that’s why it can be said that you came from a poor family,” Santiago said.

Santiago urged Napoles to tell the committee who was the most guilty “so that he can’t transfer being the most guilty to you.”

“That person is listening to us. He doesn’t show himself, that’s his style, but he’s listening. He has a lot of money and after this he will order his minions to put me down,” the senator said.

Santiago was obviously referring to Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, with whom she had been quarreling since late 2012.

Enrile did not appear at the blue ribbon committee hearing. He and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. are facing plunder charges in the Office of the Ombudsman together with Napoles for the pork barrel scam.

All three have denied any wrongdoing.

Revilla did not attend the hearing. Estrada was in the United States.

 

‘Tanda,’ ‘Sexy’ and ‘Pogi’

“Your former employees say that you call Enrile ‘Tanda’ (old man). Who else in the Senate is old other than Enrile? He said he’s already 89, but we’re not sure. He may already be 99, or 109, because he seemed to be suffering from dementia, especially on things as regards me,” Santiago told Napoles.

She asked Napoles if Estrada was the “Sexy” she was referring to according to the whistle-blowers.

“I also don’t know,” Napoles replied.

“You don’t know? But you do. What you want to say is you invoke your right against self-incrimination,” Santiago shot back.

After consulting her lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), Napoles changed her answer and said, “I invoke my right (against self-incrimination).”

“I have nothing else to say because that’s our law,” Santiago said.

But she went on to ask Napoles if Revilla was the one she called ‘Pogi’ (handsome).

“I invoke my right,” Napoles said.

Santiago asked her if she personally knew Enrile or Estrada or Revilla.

“I invoke my right,” Napoles said.

Santiago then asked if Napoles knew any of the other senators who may be charged for involvement in the pork barrel scam.

“I invoke my right,” Napoles said.

The hearing ended after a short break for lunch, with the senators beaten back by a witness who was determined to keep her mouth shut.

 

Harder work

In the House of Representatives, congressmen were disappointed, saying that Napoles’ denying knowledge of the pork barrel scam had been expected.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the Senate had to work harder to determine who really was the mastermind behind the theft of the government’s development funds.

Zarate said nothing could be expected from Napoles, as she already knew that the burden of proving the case against her and the “cabal of scammers and plunderers” lay with the government.

“Her denial, though disappointing, is expected. She is not just saving herself but also her patrons, including those yet to be named, exposed and charged,” Zarate said in a statement.

But should she be proved to have lied, the authorities could go after her for perjury because she testified under oath, Zarate said.

The senators should look for other ways to discover the truth, he said.

“The Senate blue ribbon committee must now exert efforts to get to the bottom of this scam beyond the blanket denial of Napoles,” he said.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said there was enough evidence to prosecute Napoles and her coconspirators despite her evasive answers.

“I doubt she will be able to get away just because she denied anything and everything,” Evardone said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the Senate must not belittle its power to cite Napoles in contempt and detain her.

Detaining Napoles in the Senate would prevent her from getting away even if the Makati court trying her on charges of serious illegal detention grants her petition for bail, Colmenares said.

Holding her in the Senate would also allow easier access to her for information she might have than if she continues to be held at a police training camp in Fort Sto. Domingo in Laguna province, he said.

 

Pressing charges

Malacañang said it understood Napoles’ decision to remain silent.

“Whoever in a similar situation wants to protect her rights and personal integrity,” Malacañang spokesman Herminio Coloma told reporters.

Coloma said it was up to the Senate if it wanted to grant immunity to Napoles, as it was the senators who would decide the value of their resource persons’ testimony.

He said Malacañang was more interested in seeing the charges against Napoles through the Office of the Ombudsman than in quibbling over the grant of immunity to the alleged brains behind the pork barrel scam.

“That is the objective of our government,” Coloma said. “That is why we stay focused . . . on moving the process forward, from the Ombudsman to the Sandiganbayan so those involved can [be tried] and ultimately held accountable.”

Coloma said the Senate blue ribbon committee investigation was part of the “overall effort” to discover who really was behind the misuse of the PDAF and other discretionary funds. Inquirer.net

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