July 20, 2018, 4:11 am
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Aguirre: Napoles lawyer got ‘opinion,’ not legal advice

JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II yesterday confirmed he and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea met with the lawyer of Janet Lim Napoles, tagged as the mastermind of the P10-billion “pork barrel” scam, in Malacañang over her temporary admission into the government’s witness protection program, but denied the lawyer’s claim he was provided legal advice.

Aguirre spoke at a press briefing in Malacañang at around noon. Earlier yesterday, Medialdea denied he advised lawyer Stephen David to file a petition in court to seek permission for Napoles’ transfer from a facility of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology to a safe house of the witness protection program (WPP).

“Why would I give legal advice to a lawyer for his client? If I were his client, I will fire him,” Medialdea said in a message sent to reporters.

David, at the Sandiganbayan on Monday, said his client’s motion for transfer resulted from a consultation with Medialdea and Aguirre early this month.

Aguirre, in the Malacañang briefing hours after Medialdea’s statement, said there was no meeting, no consultation, and no legal advice given by him or Medialdea, even if he and the Executive Secretary met David some two to three weeks ago.

He said he was in Malacañang to attend a meeting, and he was with Medialdea when David arrived and asked the Executive Secretary to “appeal” his (Aguirre’s) the stand that Napoles must first file a petition to seek a transfer to the WPP safehouse. He said Medialdea, however, shared his opinion.

It was not clear why or how David was able to enter Malacañang, but Aguirre said Napoles’ lawyer is frequently there.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said he had no information about the reported visit to David to Malacañang.

Aguirre said he and Medialdea just shared their opinion and were “not giving legal advice” to David.

“But it’s not giving legal advice. He’s just giving his opinion,” he said. “Hindi naman, legal advice iyon eh. Actually he talked to ES Medialdea to appeal my opinion that he should — we could not (do) that — we at the DOJ could not. He wants to say that since I am under the Office of the President as a department secretary, he could appeal my opinion to the Executive Secretary. Kaya, that’s a simple as that,” he said.

Aguirre also said Napoles’ camp approached the Department of Justice, saying she is now ready to tell all about the alleged pork barrel scam.

He said Napoles has executed an affidavit about the “violations of the law by some government officials,” but he declined to elaborate.

Napoles is facing plunder and graft cases in connection with the alleged misuse and diversion of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund or “pork barrel” allocations to dubious non-government organizations she set up.

Napoles’ “provisional acceptance” to the WPP on February 27 was made public only last Friday.

Aguirre has been receiving flak for the move, with some groups even calling for his resignation, also because of the dismissal of charges against Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Lim, and other known big-time drug lords for weak evidence. The dismissal was made by a panel of DOJ prosecutors in December last year and was known only last week. Aguirre, in defense, has said the decision is not final and he is reviewing the case.

Sen. Grace Poe there are requirements for admission as state witness, “the most notable” of which is “that the accused does not appear to be the most guilty and that there is no other direct evidence available for the prosecution.”

“How can Janet Lim Napoles not appear as most guilty when she has been identified as the `pork barrel queen’? The pieces of evidence against her even led to the indictment and detention of several high profile public officials,” she said.

Former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. are facing plunder and graft charges before the Sandiganbayan. Enrile and Estrada were granted bail while Revilla remains detained at the PNP Custodial Center.

The Liberal Party of former President Aquino expressed belief the administration is guiding Napoles on how to secure protection from the DOJ.

“The cat is out of the bag on who’s behind the bold moves of pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim Napoles in securing protection from the Department of Justice. No less than her lawyer, Stephen David, told the court that her request for transfer from the BJMP to the DOJ was upon the suggestion of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre,” it said in a statement. – With JP Lopez
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