Why not use online live streaming to get the testimony of suspected pork barrel scam operator Janet Lim-Napoles?
The idea of Napoles testifying via Skype, or similar live streaming software, was pushed by Senate deputy minority leader Vicente Sotto III yesterday amid security concerns about bringing Napoles to the Senate from her detention at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
Sotto recognized the security nightmare that might arise if Napoles is asked to be physically present once the Senate Blue Ribbon committee resumes the hearings.
“Apart from security concerns for both the senators, the media and Napoles… all the security forces to be tapped for the hearing, this is the most convenient way. Live streaming or via Skype,” Sotto said.
Sotto was also reacting to the statement of the Philippine National Police (PNP), which said Senate hearings could possibly be held inside Fort Sto. Domingo.
The senator said it would save the government time and resources if the Senate and the court allowed Napoles to testify through the Internet.
‘Prosecute those involved in pork barrel scam’
Security concerns should not be used as a reason to derail Napoles’ appearance before the Blue Ribbon committee, according to Senate President Franklin Drilon.
Drilon said he is ready to sign the subpoena compelling Napoles to appear and testify before the Senate once the committee forward it to his office.
“Even if the subpoena is directly issued to Napoles, the PNP who has physical custody of Napoles, would still have to secure the permission of the Court, as the PNP is holding Napoles not on its own, but by virtue of the order of the court,” Drilon said on dzBB radio yesterday.
“I do not recall the details of the subpoena on Gen. (Carlos) Garcia, but if he was being detained then by virtue of a warrant, his custodians must also have secured the court’s permission, because if he was under detention then, he could not have appeared in the Senate without the court’s permission,” Drilon said.
He added that he cannot preempt what the court will decide on Napoles’ case but the issue of security cannot be justified to stop the Senate’s subpoena.
Drilon maintained that all those who were linked to the scam should be prosecuted.
“My policy here is that we should support the prosecution and jail those who did wrong, whether or not they are senators or congressmen,” the Senate president said.
If evidence warrants a person guilty for PDAF misuse, then they should be detained, Drilon said.
The Senate president also does not see any problem attending the Senate probe, maintaining that he has not misused his own pork barrel funds, despite reports saying that he and Napoles are personal friends.
Assert Senate’s power to compel witnesses
The Senate should exercise its independence from the judiciary in compelling the appearance of Napoles to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said over the weekend.
Pimentel gave his opinion while the Senate Blue Ribbon committee remains undecided on where it should send the subpoena for Napoles – to the Makati Regional Trial Court or her custodian.
“In my personal point of view, I think that the Senate has every right to demand that Napoles be subpoenaed and brought to the Senate,” said Pimentel, who previously headed the Blue Ribbon committee that probed the Centennial scam and Retirement and Separation Benefits System (RSBS) fund misuse, and the jueteng scandal.
Pimentel said the Senate should exercise its authority under the virtue of the separation of powers of the state.
There was no need to seek permission from the court beforehand, he added.
Although some senators were identified as having links with Napoles, Pimentel said the Senate could not simply ignore the controversy and sweep it under the rug because of public outrage.
“I think the Senate had no alternative than to go for it because the people (have) expressed outrage. With the public outrage, there is no way the Senate can retain the respect of the people if they will just ignore this Napoles thing.”
Pimentel said Napoles has the right to question the subpoena but the Senate should not be the one to find reasons for her not to attend the hearing.