MANILA The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday said it is still open to receive information from alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles if she has evidence against those involved in the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, however, said it would be up to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to determine if it needs to approach Napoles or let her divulge information on the case.
The NBI is currently probing the alleged scams involving the PDAF and the DAP, on original orders from former DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
"This investigation is actually ongoing. We have instructed the National Bureau of Investigation to continue its investigation on the DAP and the PDAF and to proceed with its case buildup," Guevarra said in a TV interview.
"If part of that evidence-gathering would involve getting information voluntarily from Ms. Napoles, then so be it," he added.
Guevarra also said he is ready to talk to the detained PDAF scam mastermind Napoles if the latter would signify her intention to share more information against some persons without any condition.
The justice chief reiterated that Napoles can no longer be placed under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) and transferred to a safehouse by the DOJ since it is the Sandiganbayan which now has jurisdiction over her because of her pending pork barrel cases.
So, we cannot do that, we cannot move her to a safehouse even if she wanted to because the court already have control over the case and over her person, Guevarra noted.
But, Guevarra said Napoles may still provide information even without protection from the DOJ if she wants to.
Guevarra's remarks came following the Office of the Ombudsman's decision indicting former President Benigno Aquino III and former budget secretary Florencio Abad for usurpation of legislative powers in connection with the DAP.
With regard to the possibility of tapping Napoles as state witness in DAP and PDAF cases, Guevarra said the decision is no longer with the justice department but with the Office of the Ombudsman.
He explained that cases related to DAP and PDAF are considered a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act which should be prosecuted by special prosecutors of the Ombudsman and not by DOJ prosecutors.
So it will be them (special prosecutors) who will determine whether a certain witness will be used by the State or not, Guevarra clarified.
Guevarra also admitted that the NBI is having a hard time in its PDAF and DAP investigation because some original documents could not be found anymore.
Despite these difficulties, Guevarra said he believes that the documents could still be retraced or reconstructed.
So although it might be difficult this time around compared to the first two batches that is not really a problem because there is something that could be done about it, Guevarra added.
Anti-pork barrel groups led by former Manila councilor and now Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission commissioner Greco Belgica have earlier submitted records with the DOJ that allegedly showed a conspiracy between the Aquino administration and some lawmakers for alleged misuse of DAP.
The groups are seeking the indictment of Aquino and other officials for the anomalous disbursements of public funds through DAP, an economic stimulus program of the previous administration.
It can be recalled that the Supreme Court (SC) issued a ruling in 2013 declaring as unconstitutional the PDAF commonly known as the "pork barrel fund" and all the laws that created it.
In 2014, the SC also declared several acts under the DAP program unconstitutional including The withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies, and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the General Appropriations Act (GAA); the cross-border transfers of the savings of the Executive to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the Executive; and the funding of projects, activities and programs that were not covered by any appropriation in the GAA. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency