Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, husband Jimmy and lawyer Atty. Lorna Kapunan at the President’s Hall Receiving Area of Malacañang on Wednesday night. Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, surrendered hours after President Aquino announced a P10-million reward for her arrest.

(PHILSTAR) By Louis Bacani - The central figure in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam should not be allowed to escape prosecution by turning into a state witness, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Thursday.

Santiago, a former Regional Trial Court judge, said Napoles is disqualified to be a state witness since she may not satisfy a requirement.

"There are five requirements for an accused to turn state witness. One of the requirements is that the accused does not appear to be the most guilty. Napoles will find it extremely difficult to prove her claim that she is not the most guilty," said Santiago.

Santiago said that under the Rules of Court, the requirements for the discharge of an accused to be a state witness are:

*There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested;
*There is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the testimony
    of the accused;
*The testimony of the accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points;
*The accused does not appear to be the most guilty;
    and The accused has not at any time been investigated of any offense involving moral turpitude.

She said if Napoles is charged with plunder in court, her lawyer must file a motion for discharge as a state witness.

"If the court denies the Napoles motion for discharge as state witness, her sworn statement shall be inadmissible in evidence," she said.

The court will then proceed to conduct a hearing in support of the discharge, with the prosecution required to present evidence and the sworn statement of witnesses.

Santiago said the discharge of Napoles to be state witness will consider the following factors: her actual and individual participation in the commission of plunder, as well as the gravity or nature of the acts committed by Napoles compared to those of her co-accused.

"It appears that Napoles was the mastermind, so she is the most guilty. Further, it appears that many persons in her syndicate know of the conspiracy to plunder, so her discharge is not absolutely necessary," Santiago said.

Meanwhile, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair TG Guingona said that he "was really appalled that there is even a discussion whether Ms. Napoles can be a state witness."

The Blue Ribbon Committee on Thursday started its probe into the pork barrel scam.

Guingona and Senator Chiz Escudero wants Napoles to face the Senate probe.

”I’m planning to request for her presence but it should go through the decision of the court,” said Escudero, explaining that the court has jurisdiction over the businesswoman after the arrest warrant was issued against her.

Guingona also believes that Napoles’ presence in the Senate inquiry “is very important.”

”Everybody wants to hear from her regarding this controversy,” he said.

Roxas: Napoles an important witness By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated August 29, 2013 - 7:50am 11 547 googleplus0 1

A poster (left) released by the Department of Justice on Wednesday citing the P10 million bounty for Janet Lim Napoles. Napoles surrendered to President Benigno Aquino III that night and was placed under the custody of Interior and Government Secretary Mar Roxas (right).

MANILA, Philippines - The government has not dismissed the possibility of using businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles as a state witness in the P10-billion pork barrel scandal, Interior and Government Secretary Mar Roxas said following her surrender on Wednesday night.

"Dinesesyunan ng Pangulo na mahalaga na maibalik sa ambit of the law si Ms. Janet Napoles bilang mahalagang witness para malaman ang buong katotohanan dito sa alegasyon ng korapsyon," Roxas told reporters at a press briefing.

Napoles, who surrendered to President Benigno Aquino III late Wednesday, exchanged a few words with him before she was placed under the custody of the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Philippine National Police.

Roxas said that Aquino is open to making her help authorities in the ongoing investigations on the pork barrel scandal.

"Isang avenue ito na bukas sa pamahalaan, kung may kontribusyon sa impormasyon at ebidensya si Napoles," Rocas said in a separate radio interview Thursday, referring to the possibility of using Napoles as a state witness.

The official, meanwhile, clarified that there were no deals made with Napoles in exchange for her surrender.

"Ang napag-usapan lang kanina ay 'yung kaalaman niya na may banta sa kanyang buhay at ang kanyang appeal (to Aquino to grant her security)," Roxas said, adding that Napoles was not given "special treatment" during her arrest.

Napoles' lawyer Lorna Kapunan appeared on television on Wednesday begging the President to assure the security of her client, whom she said was willing to surrender.

"Ang punto dito ay ginagawa natin ang lahat para malaman ang katotohanan," Roxas said.

"Hindi ko sinasabi na tanggap natin ang lahat ng sasabihin niya, ang mahalaga buhay siya at may pagkakataon na pakinggan ang panig niya," he added.

Kapunan was a law firm colleague of Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, who was brought to an undisclosed location where Napoles "voluntarily surrendered."

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said that if Napoles surrenders, the government may allow her the role of state witness.

As state witness, Napoles may be granted immunity and avail of the benefits of the DOJ's witness protection program including security details, travel and living expenses as well as medical assistance.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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