Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago questions alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. Senate-PRIB

MANILA NOVEMBER 11, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Louis Bacani - Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Thursday warned businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles that she may be ordered assassinated as the lawmaker tried to convince her to reveal the truth behind the pork barrel scam.

During the sixth hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Santiago advised Napoles to divulge her knowledge now on the multi-billion peso racket before the officials embroiled into the controversy have her killed.

"This is a friendly tip from a lawyer," Santiago told Napoles. "Tell the truth before the senators affected will have you assassinated."

The feisty senator asked Napoles to confirm if Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. are the persons in the alleged scam referred to as "Tanda," "Sexy," and "Pogi."

But Napoles only invoked her right against self-incrimination.

Santiago fired several questions to Napoles, but the suspected pork barrel scam operator either denied having knowledge or repeatedly invoked her right against self-incrimination.

Napoles and the three senators are facing plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for pocketing lawmakers' pork barrel funds that were supposedly routed to the fake organizations she allegedly set up.

'Evasive' Napoles won't spill the beans By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated November 7, 2013 - 3:51pm 5 28 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles consistently invoked her right against self-incrimination when quizzed by senators during the pork barrel scam hearing on Thursday.

In the ongoing probe of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Napoles refused answer several questions regarding the alleged multi-billion peso racket.

Instead, Napoles repeatedly invoked her right against self-incrimination, saying she is already facing charges before the Office of the Ombudsman and the Bureau of Internal Revenue in connection with the pork barrel scam.

"May pending case na po so dun na lang namin sasagutin," Napoles responded to a senator's question.

Napoles has been interrogated by committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III and Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Alan Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Bam Aquino, JV Ejercito and Grace Poe Llamanzares.

In answering some of the senators' queries, Napoles would even say "I can't remember" or "I don't know."

"Selective ang memory niyo ha," Guingona told Napoles. "There seems to be an evasiveness."

So far, Napoles has denied the statements of the whistle-blowers that she set up fake non-government organizations which siphoned pork barrel funds of lawmakers and offering kickbacks to them.

She also denied of having any dealing with the pork barrel and the Malampaya funds and knowing the legislators allegedly involved in the controversies. She also denied having knowledge in the fertilizer fund scam during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

When asked by Llamanzares if she would spill the beans if granted with immunity as a state witness, Napoles said in Filipino: "There is no scam, no reason for me to turn state witness."

Senators poised to file perjury raps vs Napoles By Marvin Sy and Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 9, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Perjury charges await alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles as Senate leaders want her punished for “outright lying” during her appearance before the chamber’s Blue Ribbon committee last Thursday.

“Clearly she was lying and she was guilty. It is becoming very regular and ordinary for people to lie before the courts or Congress, so I think the committee should consider not only citing them in contempt but also charging them with perjury in order to restore the respect in the courts and quasi-judicial bodies like the Senate,” Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters yesterday. A perjury case can land Napoles in jail for several years if convicted.

Napoles denied every accusation thrown at her or kept her silence by invoking her right against self-incrimination at the Blue Ribbon committee hearing on the pork barrel scam last Thursday.

To prove that Napoles was lying, Cayetano cited a March 2006 letter that he presented during the hearing, in which she was asking former agriculture secretary Domingo Panganiban to certify that one of her business interests, Jo-Chris Trading, had no involvement in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

In the letter, Napoles wanted the Department of Agriculture to certify that the funds used to purchase foliar liquid fertilizer for its regional field units in January 2004 were sourced from the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and not from the fertilizer fund.

The businesswoman denied having engaged in business dealings using PDAF during the hearing.

“I told Senator TG (Guingona), let’s look at the statements and if it is clear that not only is she being evasive, not only is she making a mockery of the hearing, but lying outright, we should cite her in contempt. But I believe that it should not only be contempt but the committee or the Senate as a whole should file perjury against her,” Cayetano said.

Citing provisions of the Revised Penal Code, Cayetano noted that the penalty for perjury ranges from a minimum of four months imprisonment to a maximum of two years and four months.

He said that even a six-month jail term for each count of perjury could mean a 10-year prison sentence for Napoles if, for instance, she is found to have lied 20 times during the hearing.

“If Congress will take seriously perjury, this could serve as a deterrent and help facilitate the other investigations against Janet Napoles and other anomalies in government,” he said.

Cayetano said that he had initially thought that Napoles was just apprehensive and did not know what to do or say during the hearing.

However, his opinion quickly changed when he and Sen. Francis Escudero started questioning her in the latter part of the hearing.

“I saw that she was very sharp. Her answers were very deliberate. She was very selective in what she wanted to remember. But there were some slips along the way, she was answering some of the questions,” Cayetano said.

He said that Napoles had apparently received last minute coaching from her lawyers from the Public Attorneys Office.

Blue Ribbon committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III said that what was good about Napoles’ demeanor during the hearing was that it had proven the credibility of her accusers.

He said that the filing of perjury against Napoles is being considered and would be discussed among the members of his committee.

Blown chance

Napoles may have blown her chances of avoiding indictment or possible conviction over the pork barrel scam with her persistent denial and evasive statements during her Senate appearance last Thursday.

“Napoles’ stance at yesterday’s (Thursday) Senate hearing was not at all encouraging for us to consider such a prospect of her being a state witness,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told The STAR.

“That’s not correct. I have not agreed to that,” she stressed in reaction to reports that she is now open to making Napoles a state witness.

The Department of Justice, through the National Bureau of Investigation, recently filed plunder and graft complaints with the Office of the Ombudsman against Napoles and 36 others, including three senators.

With her refusal to spill the beans on her cohorts, Napoles would still be treated as mastermind of the scam based on available evidence, including testimonies from whistle-blowers led by Benhur Luy.

“It’s really difficult to qualify as state witness. There are many requirements to be met and that includes the accused being ‘not the most guilty’ of the crime charged,” De Lima explained.

Earlier, De Lima said prosecutors were not closing their doors to the possibility of having Napoles as state witness, citing the involvement in the case of more influential personalities.

The Rules of Court provide that “any person who has knowledge of or information on the commission of a crime and has testified or is testifying or is willing to testify” may become state witness upon approval of the court hearing the case.

De Lima said discussion on the issue is premature since “we are not yet in a stage where we need to decide on whether she can be state witness or not.”

De Lima also expressed belief Napoles’ behavior during the Senate hearing only proved the credibility of the whistle-blowers.

Not all is lost

For party-list group Akbayan, Napoles should follow some senators’ advice that she tell the truth and name the lawmakers who had misused their pork barrel funds.

The group said Napoles “still has the chance to serve the interest of truth and justice and turn things around” by revealing all she knows about the misuse of PDAF allocations.

“Without necessarily turning into a state witness, Napoles must realize that she has a rare opportunity to do some good on this issue. While she can’t exactly play the role of a ‘heroic truth-teller’ because of her central involvement in the scam, she can definitely be a ‘pork squealer’ who can name the public officials involved in this multi-billion racket,” Akbayan said.

It said Luy and the other whistle-blowers were definitely more credible than their former boss.

In her Senate appearance on Thursday, several senators pleaded with Napoles to tell the truth about the pork barrel scam and name senators and House members involved in it. They told her that by doing so, she could clear up the PDAF mess and could save her life.

She is reportedly under threat, apparently from those who have been dragged into the pork barrel mess.

But Napoles denied everything about the scam, including her creation of 21 bogus foundations to receive lawmakers’ PDAF allocations.

Luy said before the foundations were created for pork barrel funds released in 2007-2009, Napoles was already dealing with certain lawmakers through Jo-Chris Trading, a company named after her daughter Jo Christine.

“Jo-Chris Trading was involved in the fertilizer scam in 2004. It supplied foliar liquid fertilizer to many lawmakers who received fertilizer fund allocations from the Department of Agriculture,” he said.

Foliar liquid fertilizer is reportedly good for orchids and not the kind of fertilizer intended for farmers procured before the 2004 presidential election.

Tight security justified

Malacañang meanwhile justified the tight security for Napoles on Thursday, saying “the safety of detainees is an institutional concern of the government.”

“The President decides not on the basis of feelings or emotions but on the basis of what is good for the entire country, what will strengthen our processes of justice and penology and detention,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said. – With Aurea Calica, Jess Diaz

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved