Return ill-gotten wealth, De Lima dares Napoles

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Senator Leila M. de Lima today challenged alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles to return the wealth she has illegally acquired from her shady deals with lawmakers linked in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scandal.

De Lima made the challenge following reports that Napoles is seriously entertaining Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre’s offer for her to become a state witness in the planned government re-investigation of the pork barrel fund anomaly.

“Mr. Aguirre is making a tempting offer for Napoles that is too hard to resist, that is to tell everything she knows against the expanded list of suspects in the pork barrel fund scam in exchange of her security, survival or political concessions,” she said.

“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,” she added.

Napoles, touted as the architect of the biggest corruption scandal in the country’s recent history, has been claiming that she inherited from her parents and a profitable coal mining business to account for her own and her family’s wealth.

News reports showed that Napoles and her family are known to reside in houses and condominiums in at least seven posh locations. They reportedly own properties in the United States in the aggregate amount of PhP495.1 million.

A list was previously released showing at least 30 high-end vehicles as well as 28 luxurious residential properties in Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Batangas and other parts of Luzon registered under the Napoleses.

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. 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.

The Senator from Bicol also pointed out that in filing charges against several lawmakers implicated in the pork barrel scam, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) probers relied instead on credible and reliable testimonial and documentary evidence provided by Benhur Luy and other whistleblowers who were former Napoles employees.

De Lima added that it is the Office of the Ombudsman which has the final say as to who among the implicated lawmakers shall be formally charged before the Sandiganbayan.

As a matter of fact, De Lima said that most of the lawmakers, and not only then Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, included in the three batches of respondents recommended by the NBI for prosecution, have now been charged before the Sandiganbayan after the Ombudsman’s own independent determination of probable cause against them.

De Lima also maintained that the present administration may simply be using Napoles to get even with its critics and opponents, threatening to implicate the remaining opposition members in Congress to the planned re-investigation.

“This government is using Napoles to blackmail and bully its critics and opponents. It will stop at nothing unless it can silence its dissenters and have their merry way of plunging our country into disaster,” she said.

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