De Lima to Napoles: Return wealth from pork scam

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 18) — Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday dared detained businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles to return the wealth she supposedly amassed from illegal transactions linked to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

This follows plans by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III to turn the alleged pork scam ringleader into a state witness for the new probe, in which Napoles' lawyer said more officials involved will be named.

"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," de Lima 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.

READ: Napoles lawyer: Napoles will only reveal big names if she turns state witness

De Lima cited news reports showing Napoles and her family in living in luxury, with properties in Metro Manila, other parts of Luzon, and the United States worth billions of pesos. Napoles claims that she inherited her wealth from her family and a profitable coal mining business.

The Senator, currently detained for drug charges, was the Justice Secretary during the first probe on the PDAF scam, where Napoles, along with Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile, were charged.

She also stood by her decision not to allow Napoles to become a state witness, as she appeared to be the most guilty in the PDAF scam.

"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," de Lima said.

She said the Duterte administration may be using Napoles just to implicate the opposition.

"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," De Lima said.

READ: Janet Lim Napoles acquitted in serious illegal detention case

The Court of Appeals acquitted Napoles on May 9 in the crime of serious illegal detention of her cousin, whistleblower Benhur Luy.

She is still facing charges of plunder, graft, malversation, and direct bribery with former congressmen.

Meanwhile, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said on Tuesday the office of the prosecutors will block any attempt to make Napoles a state witness, as she is one of the "principal alleged malefactors" of the scam.