Sunday, March 16, 2014

Time to bill Janet Napoles P150,000 a month for expenses–Santiago


Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Janet Lim-Napoles. INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

If Janet Lim-Napoles wants a specially secure jail but continues to clam up regarding everything she knows about the P10-billion pork barrel scam that she allegedly engineered, it may be time to bill her for her reported P150,000-a-month detention bungalow in Fort Sto. Domingo. 

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago made the remark amid suggestions that Napoles be transferred to an ordinary jail with other inmates if she continues to keep mum about the legislators who converted their pork barrel funds into millions of pesos in kickbacks for themselves through Napoles’ fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and their ghost projects. 

The Aquino administration has continued to allow Napoles to be detained at the police camp in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna province, despite the huge cost to Filipino taxpayers to keep her safe, hoping that she would eventually tell all on her influential conspirators in the government. 

Refuses to cooperate
“Since Napoles refuses to cooperate, it appears that there is no substantial reason for the government to pay so much money just for one individual when it does not provide the same services for all other prisoners facing criminal charges and denied the right to bail,” Santiago said on Friday in a speech at De La Salle University. 

“Accordingly, I humbly propose that President Aquino save public funds by allowing detention prisoners to pay for their stay,” she added. 

Santiago said the government was spending P5,000 daily and P150,000 monthly, and would be spending P1.8 million annually for Napoles’ special detention accommodations. 

By comparison, the government spends just P54 daily, P1,612 monthly and P20,000 annually to detain a prisoner in an ordinary jail, she said. 

Witnesses have testified to the lavish lifestyle that Napoles led while she allegedly perpetrated her scams. One story is that she had bags of money delivered to her room and even to her bathtub, presumably because they had run out of storage space. 

“Philippine state interest consists in the promotion of the truth about the pork barrel scandal. If Napoles as a person of interest refuses to cooperate by providing information that she apparently possesses about the scam, there is no acceptable reason why the government should single her out for special treatment among the more than 70,000 detention prisoners in the country,” Santiiago said. 

The discrimination in her favor constitutes a violation of the equal protection clause in the Constitution, she said. 

Bill her
“The PNP (Philippine National Police) should immediately bill Napoles under a cost recovery program. If she wishes to avail [herself] of protection for her security and safety, then the obvious legal remedy is for her to apply for the Witness Protection Program administered by the Department of Justice,” Santiago said. 

Applying for the Witness Protection Program means asking to turn state witness and rat on the senators, House members, legislative staff, line agency officials and others now facing plunder and other charges in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the pork scam. 

The pork barrel scam robbed poor communities of livelihood programs that the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations were supposed to finance and that Napoles’ fake NGOs were supposed to implement, testimonies have shown. 

Among those charged with plunder in connection with the scam are Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. 

Within Aquino’s power
Santiago said it was well within Mr. Aquino’s power to implement a “pay-for-stay” system in Napoles’ case. 

“The first legal basis is the President’s ordinance power, under which he could issue a memorandum order concerning a particular office of the government. The second legal basis is the President’s residual powers, as provided for by the Administrative Code,” she said.
“The President has the power to compel a detention prisoner to make a choice between ordinary stay in jail at the government’s expense or stay in an enhanced facility at the prisoner’s own expense,” she added. 

Santiago said the system is called the pay-for-stay program in the United States. She said US courts had upheld pay-for-stay programs in such states as Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Tennessee, Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

The pay-for-stay programs have been questioned in US courts but have been upheld, she said.

Tillman case
Santiago said the most famous of these US decisions was the 2000 case Tillman v. Correctional Facility, decided by the US Court of Appeals. 

She said the US appellate court upheld the system of charging inmates for enhanced room and board. 

“The landmark case of Tillman teaches us that there should be judicial deference to executive administrative practices.  In other words, the judiciary should grant a wide latitude in applying the President’s constitutional power to control the executive department,” Santiago said. 

“In fact, the US Court of Appeals in the Tillman decision indicates that even if [appellate Michael] Tillman’s constitutional rights have been violated, the court might still find that the violation was outweighed by the state’s interest in ‘sparing the taxpayers the cost of imprisonment,’” she added.

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