Malacañang on Tuesday, March 20, asserted that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is not in any way influencing the possible admission of pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim-Napoles into the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. stressed in a Palace press briefing that the President is keeping his hands off the Napoles case and would rather leave it to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to decide whether or not she should be placed under the WPP.
Roque belied the claim of Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David that it was Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea who advised their camp to file a motion before the Sandiganbayan for her transfer of custody to the DOJ.
“Atty. David was there to appeal that Secretary Medialdea should reverse the position of the DOJ Secretary. He did not succeed. So that’s proof that Malacañang is not behind anything as far as Napoles is concerned,” he explained when asked about the details behind David’s meeting with ES Medialdea and Secretary Aguirre.
Aguirre, who was present during the briefing, stated that David wanted Napoles to be taken out of the Taguig detention cell. But the Justice Secretary believed that such motion should be filed before the Sandiganbayan. Aguirre said David appealed to the Executive Secretary to reverse his opinion on the matter, but Medialdea had the same stand.
Spokesperson Roque for his part clarified that the President respects the law governing any witness’ admission into the WPP.
“The law says it is the DOJ that will decide on these matters. The President does not micromanage. He will allow the line agencies to perform their duties according to the law. He will reserve of course exercise of supervision and control if need be,” he noted.
‘Duterte meets with NSC Exec. Committee’
During the same press briefing, the Palace announced that President Duterte presided a special meeting in Malacañang on Monday, March 19, to issue specific directives to the National Security Council Executive Committee.
In the meeting, which Secretary Roque said ended at around three o’clock in the morning, the President directed the creation of the Task Force for Mindanao IP Convergence, with the goal of addressing the plight of the indigenous peoples of Mindanao.
The Chief Executive also ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to revoke the licenses and permits of mining companies that violated explosives handling rules, or have been reported to supply explosives to communist terrorist groups.
“Military and police also found violating laws on explosives will face automatic expulsion,” Roque added.
Also discussed during the meeting were measures against threats of violence by terrorists, particularly at ports and terminals; and efforts to secure and develop the Philippine Rise, Roque cited.
‘President suspends March 20 classes’
The Spokesperson meanwhile stressed that the President decided to suspend classes in Metro Manila on Tuesday, March 20, to minimize public inconvenience of reported organized transport strikes to Filipino students.
Roque said President Duterte decided to suspend classes so as not to sacrifice the safety of students who may be affected by the “actual and/or imminent threats” posed by some transport groups.
“Hindi po natin hahayaan na magkaroon ng aberya sa ating mga estudyante dahil po sa transport strike na ‘yan,” he said, stressing that the move was not done to put in a bad light transport groups rallying against the government’s jeepney modernization plan.
“Hindi po ‘yan pagwawagi ng mga transport groups na kumakalaban sa gobyerno. ‘Yan po ay para sa kapakanan ng ating mga kabataan at mga estudyante… Hindi po natin sinusugal ‘yung kapakanan ng ating mga kabataan,” Roque added. ### PCO-Content