Exclusive: Aguirre was 'out of tune' putting Napoles under witness protection — Ombudsman

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 11) — Alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles should not have been placed under provisional witness protection, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said Friday.

In an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines' The Source, Morales said former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre was "out of tune" when he put Napoles under provisional coverage of the government's Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Program.

"That was unfounded on the part of Aguirre. To begin with, it is the Ombudsman who has the final say on who will be indicted," she pointed out.

After Aguirre resigned earlier this year amid public dissatisfaction with his performance, his successor Menardo Guevarra removed Napoles from the program.

"He's fair. He has no integrity issue," Morales said of Guevarra, who was a long-time lawyer of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Napoles faces criminal charges for funnelling some ₱10 billion in pork barrel funds of some lawmakers, including former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, to bogus non-government organizations.

Napoles had hinted she was willing to name more government officials — about 100 congressmen and 20 senators — who were involved in the scam. Her lawyer Stephen David said she was willing to "tell all," but no one was listening.

Solicitor General Jose Calida had agreed that the government should listen to Napoles.

Morales pointed out that there was nothing preventing Napoles from being heard, but said she should have come forward long ago.

"At this point in time, whatever she says would probably be taken with a jaundiced eye, because if she had wanted to say something before against someone, she should have done that years back," the Ombudsman said.

Morales denied that Enrile, Estrada and Revilla were implicated just because they were opposition lawmakers to the previous administration of Former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who had appointed Morales.

"It was easier for us to pass upon these cases because there was this confession of Napoles," she said. "Independently of that, we had the testimony of [whistleblower Benhur] Luy and we had documentary evidence sourced from Luy and sourced elsewhere."

Morales, who is set to retire in July, expressed fear that her office would not be able to complete the filing  of charges on the scam by the time her term ends.

"I am afraid we may not be able to finish all the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) cases," she said. "[But if we can] between now and July 25, why not?"

Programming note: The Source interview with Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales airs today at 9:00 a.m., with replays at 2:00 and 7:30 p.m.