Analysis

Extraordinary secrecy

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CANBERRA – Extraordinary secrecy surrounded the surrender of Janet Lim-Napoles to no less than the head of state, President Aquino, on Wednesday night. Tagged by the government virtually as the country’s public enemy No. 1, Napoles thought it was beneath her dignity to surrender to lesser authorities after eluding arrest for two weeks the largest task force ever deployed, in recent memory, by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to hunt and arrest a fugitive of justice.

In a triumphalist mood, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda announced: “At 9:37 p.m. on Aug. 28, Janet Napoles surrendered to President  Aquino. Napoles is wanted on charges of serious illegal detention arising from the alleged kidnapping of Benhur Luy,” a former employee of Napoles, a key witness  in the corruption scandal involving the diversion of  P10 billion in congressional pork barrel funds to a group of NGOs (nongovernment organizations).

As soon as the President received the information that Napoles had turned up at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, he was driven to Crame to accept the surrender. He promptly turned over Napoles to the custody of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas for the formal procedures of arrest and booking. The President also met Napoles’ husband, Jimmy, a former military officer.

On orders from the Presidential Security Group, the police barred news reporters from entering the camp. Reporters found this secrecy abnormal, pointing out that criminal suspects were usually immediately presented to the media. With  this ban, the Aquino administration’s creed of transparency flew out of the window. The public might as well say goodbye to it.

What’s so especial about Napoles? What state secrets are involved—if and when Napoles talks in captivity—to warrant this secrecy? Will her disclosures in the ensuing interrogations in Crame compromise the security of the state?

The surrender came shortly after Malacañang announced a P10-million bounty for the arrest of Napoles. Prior to the surrender, there were reports that, according to Napoles’ lawyer, her client had sent surrender feelers through  Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. His spokesperson denied that the Manila archbishop had spoken with Napoles or her lawyer. The Inquirer reported, citing her lawyer as source, that Napoles had decided to surrender before she could be charged with plunder or other cases related to the pillage of public funds. A PNP spokesperson said proposals to make Napoles a state witness would be studied. This possibility is plausible and suggests that a deal might have been struck between government and Napoles to put her under protective custody for whatever revelations she might make in the course of the trial of cases that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is preparing against her.

Napoles’ lawyer was reported in media as saying that she surrendered because she feared for her life. “There are really people who want to keep her silent permanently,” the lawyer said. Roxas echoed the lawyer’s claim and said the President has vowed to secure Napoles. She might be safe now under the PNP’s custody, but  many in the public are asking: What sort of information could the government allow Napoles to reveal or cover up?

Whatever it is, the case over the pork barrel diversion did not end with her arrest. With Napoles’ arrest, the government has now in its hands a witness who can shed more light—who can confirm or invalidate what 10 whistle-blowers, all former employers of hers, have revealed in their affidavits submitted to the NBI. Somehow, the DOJ investigation has turned a corner and has opened new doors. The question is, what government sector will be held criminally liable for the pork barrel diversion in the redirected investigation?

At the formation of the Interagency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council last Tuesday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the council would look into the alleged misuse of the pork barrel fund, which was uncovered in a special audit from 2007 to 2009. The review conducted by the Commission on Audit showed that 82 NGOs received P6.165 billion from the allocations of 12 senators and 180 members of the House of Representatives under their Priority Development Assistance Fund. De Lima vowed there would be no “sacred cows” in the review. “We will go where the evidence will lead us.” The investigation will be nonpartisan—meaning, it will cover both the administration allies and the opposition, she said.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, had similar fighting words. “We don’t have any record of being tools of anybody, to spare this fellow and make it hard for the other fellows. So we assure you of the credibility of the investigation,” she said.

De Lima said the NBI was set to file with the Office of the Ombudsman the first batch of cases, including plunder, against Napoles and those involved in the diversion of public funds in “one or two weeks.” The NBI is gathering evidence from the COA and the Anti-Money Laundering Council, she said. The NBI has a “roomful of evidence” in the COA photocopy machine. “We want to be sure that the cases we will be filing have enough evidence,” she said. We hope by “enough evidence” she did not mean tons of rubbish.

What’s of utmost concern is that this zeal to investigate does not turn into the biggest witch-hunt in Philippine legal history.

Inquirer Viber

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  • josh_alexei

    I think this practice of “presentation” of the suspect to the Media must end as this is a violation of the accused guaranteed legal right of Presumption of Innocence…and being publicly paraded to the ‘blood’ thirsty media is not a very nice experience for one that may ended up an innocent man. This Practice long been rid of in “decent” societies.

    • koolkid_inthehouse

      you noticed that too.

    • ed_dAVAO

      I don’t know if the case of illegal detention, a non bailable offense. so far this the only case Napoles had.

      • josh_alexei

        I don’t know of non bailable offense as every accused has the right to reasonable Bail unless otherwise refused Bail for justified Reason…

  • Ivideo

    What’s funny about the whole PDAF hullabaloo is, it happened during GMA watch and yet PNoy is getting the brunt of it all. Here is a President who wants to correct the wrong systems of the past and yet the crabs are all out to discredit his efforts. The communists, whose nature is to destroy our democratic process, are always out to stir disorder amongst us. They are never contented with whoever sits in Malacanang. With the conviction to eradicate corruptions, PNoy’s three years of manning this country has earned us several positive reviews from the international community and yet, few hurl back viciousness towards him. If there is one to be accused of using PDAF to keep her from being impeached, it’s GMA. And if ever the crabs speculation of PNoy using PDAF to oust Corona is true, then I see it to be just and right. Corona was a midnight appointee and a thieving, plundering cohort of GMA. If Napoles had struck a deal with the government to spill the beans against the plundering senators and congressmen, so be it. Napoles could have not done what she’s accused of without their support and knowledge. But of course, she should not also be free of a jail time.

    • ed_dAVAO

      Tell the president if He wants to correct the system, Let him remove PDAF at all form and pass the FOI bill, otherwise this is yet another form of political harassment hatched by his spin masters. But just don’t let him change the name of PDAF to another more scary system. With Napoles? I don’t expect anything good coming out on these.

  • jowelski

    “What’s so especial about Napoles? What state secrets are involved—if and when Napoles talks in captivity—to warrant this secrecy? Will her disclosures in the ensuing interrogations in Crame compromise the security of the state?”

    You are obviously oblivious of the peoples’ anger towards these “kapalmuks” senators and congressmen in spending our taxes for their own benefits. Napoles surrendered to PNoy because she was very sure that she can be liquidated by the arms of these hoodlum lawmakers anytime.

    Wake up, Mr Doronila ! GMA is no longer in power!

  • JosengSisiw1

    Even if this will be considered as a witch hunt, 1 senator in prison equals to 1 billion untouched fund for public welfare. No matter how you call and look at it, the taxpayers will benefit with 1 less animal in our congress.

  • http://www.yahoo.com JOSE RIZAL

    Indeed a very extra-ordinary secrecy…

  • talagalangha

    RMN broadcaster LINO CELLE already posted in his FB account and official RMN website that Malacanang already had Napoles in possession,being detained 200 km north of Manila (could be Tarlac?)…a full 24 HOURS befor it happebes as he said it would—Napoles would “surrender” to Pnoy, it will be front page the next day, and she will be made a state witness daw….

    Why all this denial and drama…? what is Malacanang cooking up?

    • ed_dAVAO

      2016 election. If somebody will get jailed on this, good, but don’t expect. We must focus on the outright removal of Pork Barrel at any form and the passage of FOI bill.

  • ed_dAVAO

    I’m not a lawyer but so far Napoles case is only an illegal detention, is this a bailable offense or not? This is always the modus of this present government, 1. Let the INQUIRER convict the person, 2. File any case against that person for a warrant 3. Detain that person and 4. Find supporting evidence later. I just hope it isn’t a fabricated one. whew.. until now the Maguindanao massacre is still unfinished.

    • ramaries

      i am not a lawyer too but as far as i know based on my reading of current events in newspapers, kidnapping, otherwise also known as illegal detention is considered a very serious crime. Amidst the unabated continuing occurrences of kidnap-for-ransom cases in the country, the law has been amended making kidnapping a non-bailable offense.

  • talagalangha

    INTERAKSYON us-based-pinoy-journo-says-napoles-was-in-govt-custody-hours-before-p10-m-bounty-announced

    So, scripted nga pala lahat ito…buking na naman si Pnoy…!

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