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De Lima dares Janet: Return ‘ill-gotten’ wealth

Detained Sen. Leila M. de Lima yesterday dared detained businesswoman Janet L. Napoles to return the wealth she allegedly illegally acquired from her sneaky deals with lawmakers linked to the multi-billion “pork barrel” fund scam.

De Lima made the call in light of reports that Napoles is seriously considering Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre’s offer for her to become a state witness as part of the government’s plan to reopen the pork barrel fund scam probe.

“If this government really sees her as a credible state witness because it thinks she is a ‘minimal player’ in the multi-billion pork barrel fund scandal, I challenge Napoles to return the wealth she has acquired from all her illegal transactions,” De Lima said in a statement.

Napoles is purportedly being offered by the government to turn state witness and reveal the expanded list of lawmakers involved in the pork barrel fund scam.

The controversy was brought to light during the Aquino administration. De Lima, at that time, was the Department of Justice Secretary, and eventually spearheaded the government probe.

De Lima, however, stood pat on her decision not to allow Napoles to become a state witness because the latter appeared – as she still appears now – as the most guilty in the pork barrel fund anomaly investigated during the previous administration.

“When we asked her to identify legislators, she asked us instead who among the senators and congressmen we wanted included in her PDAF list of clients,” the senator said.

“That is when I knew that Napoles cannot be relied upon and is only too willing to fabricate her own testimony to save her skin at the expense of innocent senators and congressmen,” she recalled.

De Lima said that in filing charges against several lawmakers implicated in the pork barrel scam, the National Bureau of Investigation relied instead on credible and reliable testimonial and documentary evidence provided by Benhur Luy and other whistleblowers who were former employees of Napoles.

Napoles was convicted by the courts for illegally detaining Luy, but the Court of Appeals acquitted Napoles from her illegal detention case, reversing the guilty verdict of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 against her. (Hannah L. Torregoza)