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Napoles doesn’t deserve immunity, solons say

 

BY PRINCE GOLEZ Manila Reporter

MANILA – Janet Lim Napoles, who purportedly masterminded the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam, should not be admitted as a state witness, said Iloilo City’s Cong. Jerry Treñas.

She should not be given immunity from criminal charges because “she is the most guilty,” Treñas told Panay News yesterday.

“I think she was the one who organized the fake non-government organizations and the beneficiaries,” added Treñas, a lawyer.

He, however, noted that the Department of Justice and the Office of Ombudsman will have the “final say” on the matter.

“It seems that for Napoles to go unscathed she would have to exonerate the President’s allies which is also unacceptable. As it is, she is one of the main players in the conspiracy to malverse billions,” Bayan Muna’s Cong. Neri Colmenares said.

Colmenares said they will oppose turning Napoles into a state witness because “this would be a clear travesty of justice.”

Napoles, now detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for the alleged illegal detention of state witness Benhur Luy, should face the charges filed against her before the Ombudsman and be penalized, he added.

“The Aquino administration should not name Napoles a state witness because it would seem there’s a quid pro quo,” the party-list representative said.

Meanwhile, ACT Teachers’ Cong. Antonio Tinio said the government may welcome “voluntary” and “truthful disclosure” from Napoles, but absolutely no immunity for her.

Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima earlier said the accused had expressed her intention to “tell all” over the misuses of the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund scandal.

Napoles, de Lima said, is also willing to become a state witness.

On Monday night, the secretary and Napoles met at the Ospital ng Makati where the latter was scheduled to undergo surgery to remove her uterine myoma.

Yesterday, Presidential Spokesoerson Edwin Lacierda said the Aquino administration is ready to hear Napoles’ testimony even if it means implicating allies of President Aquino.

“I think Secretary Leila de Lima already mentioned that she wants the testimony without any political color,” Lacierda added.

Lacierda earlier said that no one, including the President’s allies, will be spared in the ongoing investigation on the scam.

He made the statement in reaction to endless suspicions that the Aquino administration is protecting its allies.

“...We have always stated that, again, (we go) where the evidence leads us,” Lacierda said in previous reports.

One of the President’s allies implicated in the pork barrel scam is Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director-general Joel Villanueva.

Lacierda said Villanueva’s being implicated should douse suspicion that the Aquino administration is protecting its allies.

Villanueva has already submitted his signatures to the Questioned Documents section of the National Bureau of Investigation and has also expressed being willing to be investigated. (With a report from the Philippine News Agency/PN)

 

Miriam wants Napoles in Senate probe again

 

BY PRINCE GOLEZ manila Reporter

MANILA – Iloilo City’s Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago asked the Blue Ribbon Committee to invite again to its investigation the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind, Janet Lim Napoles.

Santiago, in her letter addressed to committee chairperson Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, said there are “strong reasons” for Napoles to face the Senate probe.

While she refused to answer queries regarding her involvement over the scam in her first appearance before the Senate, Napoles reportedly claimed that 19 other senators were also involved in the scandal, the solon said.

“Today’s media report that Ms. Napoles has not only asserted the criminal liability of three senators named in the recent partial report submitted by our committee; but it appears that (she) has also implicated some 19 other senators,” Santiago said.

Yesterday, Senate President Franklin Drilon also reminded those handling the investigation – the Department of Justice and the Office of Ombudsman – to be “sober” in its approach to the case.

“I understand that this issue provides a lot of opportunities for political attacks. But we should not muddle the issue by embarking on witch hunts and black propaganda and ruin the sincere efforts to find the truth and render justice,” Drilon said.

The senator from Iloilo urged lawmakers and other individuals involved in the scam “to face the full brunt of the law, as long as there are enough evidence to support the charges.”

Evidence against the accused must be laid out and presented to the court and to the public, Drilon said.

The possibility of Napoles to become a state witness remains “highly speculative,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. in a regular press briefing yesterday.

For the “pork” investigation to be credible, Coloma said it should be “evidence-based.”

“Our focus here is the quest for truth. The President has time and again said that the evidence itself must provide direction,” the secretary added./PN

 

Free breakfast for PH schoolchildren?

 

BY PRINCE GOLEZ Manila Reporter

MANILA – A bill seeks to provide free breakfast to children in public day care centers, pre-schools and grade schools.

Authored by Cebu’s Cong. Raul del Mar, House Bill (HB) 364 aims to improve the academic performance of schoolchildren with the implementation of a free breakfast program.

The scheme will help “fine-tune” the present program of the government in fighting hunger and reducing poverty, del Mar said.

Almost all schoolchildren enrolled in public schools come from poor families, he stressed.

“These children coming to school with practically no breakfast from home cannot be expected to absorb their lessons in school while suffering hunger pangs,” the representative explained.

They also suffer from undernourishment and malnourishment, which affect their capacity to attain and maintain average academic performance, he said.

Under del Mar’s bill, the meal shall consist of fortified instant noodles or iron-fortified rice or fortified biscuits./PN

   

Obama to check eco-friendly jeepney program

 

By BING C. BRANIGIN White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON DC – United States President Barack Obama will be personally reviewing the progress of a program which seeks to replace the smoke-belching jeepney with an environment-friendly electric transport that is being supported by a technology maker in the US, during his visit in the Philippines.

According to Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, President Obama will begin his second day in Manila on Tuesday, April 29 by viewing the City Optimized Managed Electric Transport (COMET).

“Those of you who have may have spent time in Manila know that this is one of the principal means of people getting around,” said Rhodes during a press briefing at the White House.

US-based Pangea Motors, LLC has teamed up with local investors to create an international partnership called Global Electric Transportation with a Philippine franchise named GET Philippines Inc. for the supply and distribution of COMET.

Pangea said that unlike its competitors, its vehicles are designed to be fully electric from the beginning instead of modifying gas vehicles or golf carts.

The vehicle uses lithium iron phosphate batteries that are enclosed in a watertight casing and consists of less than 300 parts instead of the usual 4,000 parts of a typical diesel-run engine, which translates to cost-efficient manufacturing and minimal maintenance, Pangea said.

The COMET can comfortably seat 16 passengers with a height clearance of over six feet. It also charges on a 220-volt outlet with its charging system built into the vehicle requiring only a four-hour charge time, and has a range of 80 to 100 kilometers on a full charge.

Upon his arrival in the Philippines on Monday, April 28, President Obama will have a one-on-one bilateral meeting with President Benigno Aquino III and a joint press conference.

On Monday night, Obama will attend a state dinner hosted by Aquino.

The American President is also scheduled to go to Fort Bonifacio where he will give his remarks to an audience that will include US and Filipino servicemembers and veterans.

Rhodes said the event will “underscore our deep security cooperation over the years, but also our security cooperation in the current environment in the Asia-Pacific as we seek to build out and advance the relationship between our militaries.”

“Then he will have a wreath-laying ceremony at the American Cemetery, which holds such importance to those who fought in World War II,” he said.

This will conclude Obama’s visit to the Philippines as he is scheduled to return to the US on April 29.

Prior to his visit to Manila, President Obama will first travel to Tokyo on April 23 where he will have a private dinner with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The following day, Obama will have an official arrival ceremony at the Imperial Palace to be followed by a bilateral meeting and joint press conference with Prime Minister Abe.

Following the press conference, the President will head to the Miraikan Science and Youth Event.

“Innovation is part of the comparative strength of the US-Japan relationship economically, and we’ll be able to lift up some of that science and technological cooperation and innovation through this event,” said Rhodes. “Afterwards, the President will have a cultural visit to a Meiji shrine.”

In the afternoon, Obama will attend a business roundtable with a variety of business leaders in Japan where he will have an opportunity to promote the SelectUSA Initiative, a new government-wide initiative that promote the US as the premier place to do business globally and help attract business operations to the US, in order to spur economic growth and job creation.

In the evening, the US President will attend a state dinner hosted by the Emperor.

The next morning, President Obama will have a farewell greet with the Emperor of Japan after which he will leave for South Korea.

Upon his arrival in Seoul on April 25, Obama will visit the National War Memorial to attend a wreath-laying ceremony and a cultural stop at the Gyeongbok Palace.

He will later have a bilateral meeting with President Park Geun-hye and a joint press conference with her.  The two leaders will also have a working dinner in the evening.

“This visit follows on the trilateral meeting that we had with Japan and the Republic of Korea during the Nuclear Security Summit as we’ve been both investing in these alliances but also the trilateral cooperation in Northeast Asia,” said Rhodes.

The following morning the President will once again have a meeting with business leaders to discuss the US-Korea economic relationship, the SelectUSA Initiative, and also the implementation of KORUS, the free trade agreement between the US and the Republic of Korea.

“Again, throughout this visit the President will be making sure to have these types of engagements with the business community,” Rhodes pointed out.

President Obama is also scheduled to visit the Combined Forces Command where he will have a briefing from the commander on the ground about the efforts of the US to be resolute in support of its Korean ally and also in the face of North Korean provocations.

He will then have an opportunity to give remarks at Yongsan Garrison to an audience of US servicemembers, as well as embassy staff.

After Seoul, Obama will visit Malaysia, the first by a US President since Lyndon Johnson.

After the arrival ceremony, the President will attend a royal audience and state dinner that evening.

On Sunday, President Obama will begin with a cultural visit to the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur.  He will then have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak, a working lunch and press conference.  Then the two leaders will head to the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center.

“Malaysia hosted the Entrepreneurship Summit, which grew out of the President’s initiative last year,” said Rhodes. “They did an exceptional job, and are following up with a number of initiatives focused on entrepreneurship that can help grow the Malaysian economy but also serve economic growth in the Asia Pacific more broadly.”

Following that tour, the President will head to Malaya University, where he’ll have a town hall with young leaders from across Southeast Asia.

“So this is a particularly interesting event in that we have invited young people from all 10 of the ASEAN countries to come to this town hall,” Rhodes said. “The President will be speaking--giving a speech there, but also engaging with the young people.  We’ll be launching a Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, somewhat similar to the initiative we have in Africa, to build relationships across Southeast Asia in coordination with our broader strategy of engaging the ASEAN countries--again, not just at a leader level, but at a young leader level as well.”

In the evening, President Obama will also have a meeting with leaders in Malaysian civil society./PN

 

Napoles rats on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla

 

MANILA – Businesswoman Janet Napoles confirmed the participation of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

De Lima met Napoles Monday night.

“She realized that the longer she remains silent, the more her life remains at risk,” de Lima said yesterday. “She said there are threats through texts, through phone calls and sometimes her family is the target.”

De Lima said a tearful Napoles clutched a rosary as they talked.

Atty. Bruce Rivera, legal counsel of Napoles, confirmed de Lima’s visit to his client at the Ospital ng Makati (OsMak).

Napoles is the alleged “brains” behind the P10-billion pork barrel fund and the P900-million Malampaya fund scams.

She has been confined at the OsMak for the surgical operation of a cyst found in her uterus.

According to Rivera, de Lima personally determined the medical condition of Napoles.

The meeting between de Lima and Napoles lasted for five hours.

Napoles executed an affidavit.

Rivera said de Lima and Napoles had a strict instruction not to divulge yet to the public the contents of the affidavit and the details of their conversation.

However, he said, the conversation between de Lima and Napoles was crucial or significant in the case of the pork barrel scam and the case of serious illegal detention being faced by Napoles.

Rivera was also present during the meeting Monday night.

De Lima told reporters yesterday the government has a strong case against Enrile, Estrada and Revilla.

“The objective here is truth seeking,” she stressed.

The DOJ chief said Napoles’ affidavit would be evaluated.

“She desires to be a state witness and we would look into what could be done,” de Lima said.

She, however, stressed that there was no commitment to make Napoles a state witness during their meeting.

De Lima said Napoles’ statements would be counter-checked with the statements from witnesses such as Benhur Luy.

“We cannot take her word hook, line, and sinker,” she said.

De Lima also said that before meeting with Napoles, she set three conditions.

“I told her, one she should tell all, tell everything, second, it’s only me whom she should talk to. And I don’t have a commitment that I would make her a state witness on the time of our meeting,” de Lima said.

She also said the whole point of the meeting was “the overarching public interest to seek the truth.” (With reports from the Philippine News Agency, inquirer.net and abs-cbnnews.com)

   
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