Napoles not ‘most guilty’
12:02 am | Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
It is disputable that Janet Lim-Napoles is the “most guilty” in the stupendous P10-billion pork barrel scam. She is an ordinary citizen, without any official governmental power. On the other hand, the legislators and other public officials who are her co-accused are cloaked with public authority. They were the custodians of public money. They had the sworn duty to preserve and spend public money for the public good. Instead, they allegedly plundered it.
Every public official is required by law to take an oath to “well and faithfully discharge to the best of his ability the duties of the office or position upon which he is about to enter; and (to declare) that he voluntarily assumes the obligation imposed by his oath of office, without mental reservation or purpose of evasion” (Sec. 40, 1987 Administrative Code of the Philippines).
Napoles had taken no such oath, not having occupied a government position. But the public officials did. Their oaths usually end with the phrase, “So help me God.” Therefore their crime, if proven, would be a “betrayal of the public trust,” for failing to “well and faithfully discharge” the duties of their office. It would also be sacrilege for falsely invoking the name of God.
In his March 26, 2012, column (“Betrayal of public trust”), Fr. Joaquin J. Bernas, former dean of the Ateneo Law School, quoted Constitutional Commissioner Ricardo Romulo as saying that “betrayal of the public trust,” one of the causes for impeachment of public officials, could “cover any violation of the oath of office.”
Commissioner Rustico de los Reyes, author of the amendment, added that “the term … includes betrayal of public interest, inexcusable negligence of duty (italics supplied), tyrannical abuse of power, breach of official duty by malfeasance or misfeasance, cronyism, favoritism, etc. to the prejudice of public interest and which tend to bring the office into disrepute.”
Further, the crime of plunder, under Republic Act No. 7080, is primarily directed against “public officers” who acquire ill-gotten wealth or misappropriate public funds amounting to more than P50 million. A private person who participates in the crime is also punished for the same offense, but he or she is not the principal accused.
Even if Napoles is the mastermind, which is unlikely, considering her being an outsider, Napoles cannot be the “most guilty” since she could not have committed the crime without the assent and participation of the public officials who have custody of and power to dispose of the funds. These officials had the duty to “turn her in” or charge her for simply making an indecent or illegal proposition.
It is to the public interest that Napoles be made a state’s witness, if her testimony is assuredly necessary to convict the public officials concerned, in order to forewarn all incumbent and future officials to be faithful to their oath of office, under pain of punishment under the law. An additional requirement of course would be for her to return to the state all the proceeds she may have enjoyed from the scam.
—MANUEL F. ALMARIO,
Movement for Truth in History,