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Gov’t eyes Napoles as state witness

Suspected pork barrel queen Janet Napoles could be tapped as potential witness to help the government run after other public officials involved in the alleged fund misuse, according to a Palace official.

Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo raised such possibility in the wake of reports the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to acquit Napoles in the illegal detention case.

Napoles was earlier convicted for forcibly detaining Benjur Luy, a whistleblower in the pork barrel scam, back in 2012. The businesswoman however still faces plunder complaints in connection with the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

“Bakit naman hindi? If she will reveal things that she did not reveal before, then cases can be filed against those whom she has implicated,” Panelo said in a media interview, when asked about the possibility of tapping Napoles in the pursuit of cases against higher officials implicated in the pork barrel scam.

“Anything that is irregular and illegal, any administration should pursue because it is bound by law to do it,” he added.

Turning an accused to state witness, however, would not be easy since it carries certain requirements, Panelo said. For one, Napoles must prove she is not the most guilty of the alleged fund misuse.

“If she appears to be the least guilty, pwede siya maging state witness pero part of the grand conspiracy ’yun, baka mastermind pa siya, paano gagawin ‘yun?” he said.

Panelo, meantime, said the Palace rallies behind the Solicitor General’s reported move to seek the acquittal of Napoles in the detention case. He said the OSG must have conduced a thorough study and found the evidence does not warrant the prosecution of Napoles.

A report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) revealed that the OSG filed a 10-page manifestation before the appellate court seeking the acquittal of Napoles last month. The OSG reportedly found that evidence presented does not support beyond reasonable doubt that Napoles committed the crime of serious illegal detention.

“If the OSG is the office that studied the case, it recommended the acquittal of the accused, then we have to abide by the decision unless independent entities can show us that the decision is contrary to evidence,” Panelo said.

Panelo, however, denied it was President Duterte who ordered the OSG to seek the acquittal of Napoles, saying the Chief Executive does not interfere with the work of agencies as long as they follow the law.

Panelo also said the latest OSG action should not be seen as the government softening stance on Napoles, who has been implicated in the pork barrel scam.

He said the administration merely observes the rule of law in handling cases regardless how controversial the accused is. If the government lawyers see a wrongful prosecution of the accused, they will do what they must done based on the law. (GENALYN KABILING)