Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said that with evidence pointing to Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile as the mastermind in the P10 billion pork barrel scam, Janet Lim-Napoles is no longer the most guilty among the accused in the plunder case, and is now qualified to be a state witness.
Santiago was reacting to news that the Ombudsman field team has submitted a report fingering Enrile as the real mastermind of the fraudulent scam that ran for some ten years, including the period when he was Senate President.
Earlier Santiago, in a rare public appearance, attended the Senate hearing where she interpellated Napoles and, by sheer lawyer’s logic, led the TV public to the conclusion that she herself categorically declared: “Enrile is the mastermind, and Napoles can turn state witness.”
Santiago said that under the Rules of Court, the motion to discharge Napoles to be a state witness should be filed by the prosecution before the Sandiganbayan, aka the anti-graft court.
The senator, a multiawarded former trial judge, said there are six requirements for an accused to be discharged as state witness: absolute necessity for her testimony; no other direct evidence except her testimony; substantial corroboration in the material points of the testimony; the accused has not been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude; and the accused does not appear to be the most guilty.
Santiago said that “in all likelihood” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales will adopt the report of her field team. Morales has announced that the plunder cases against some 38 accused, including Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, and Sen. Bong Revilla Jr., will be resolved before the end of December this year.
She said that once the Ombudsman resolves to file the cases in the Sandiganbayan, automatically, the Sandigan under the anti-plunder law, will order the suspension from the Senate of the three senators.
The court will also order a bail hearing immediately to determine if evidence of guilty is storng. In plunder cases, there is no right to bail.
“If the Sandigan discharges Napoles as a state witness, this means that in effect she has been acquitted. But she has to comply with the condition that she must specify every single detail of the scam hatched by the mastermind and carried out by her fake NGOs,” Santiago said.
Santiago said that if the Sandigan as a trial court discharges Napoles, even if Enrile appeals the order to the Court of Appeals, the latter will not interfere unless Enrile can show grave abuse of discretion.
“The philosophy behind the state witness procedure is to give immunity to one of the conspirators in order that not all shall escape, particularly the mastermind,”she said.
She cited the principle that: “Where a crime is contrived in secret, the discharge of one of the conspirators is essential so that she can testify against the other conspirators.”
Santiago said that Napoles’ testimony is absolutely necessary because she alone has knowledge of the entire crime, and her testimony is not simply corroborative.
She added that under Supreme Court decisions, when Napoles applies in the Sandigan for discharge, she is required to file a sworn statement as a proposed state witness.
“Because she has to file a sworn statement in court, I would strongly urge that Napoles should file a petition in court to perpetuate her testimony. She must file such a petition, because her life is in danger as a potential state witness.” In her petition, Napoles must give the facts which she desires to establish by her proposed testimony, and the reasons for desiring to perpetuate it. Napoles will have to name the adverse parties, such as senators Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla so that their lawyers can be present during her deposition,” she said.
“The Sandigan will grant the petition for perpetuation of testimony to prevent a failure of justice. The lawyers of both the petitioners and the adverse parties, together with the clerk of court, will then go to Napoles and either ask verbal questions or present her with written questions which she must then answer at that place. A court stenographer will be present to take down her testimony,” the senator said.