The former husband of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima accompanied pork barrel scam suspect Janet Lim-Napoles when she visited the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters prior to her surrender last year.
This was according to dismissed NBI deputy director Reynaldo Esmeralda, who told reporters that Napoles was accompanied by De Lima's erstwhile husband, lawyer Plaridel Bohol, and two other lawyers, including Freddie Villamor, when she met with then-NBI director Nonnatus Rojas.
"They were there for Napoles," said Esmeralda of the three lawyers.
Esmeralda and fellow dismissed NBI deputy director Ruel Lasala earlier presented a closed-circuit television footage of Napoles' visit to the NBI. The date indicated in the footage was September 2013, but Esmeralda said the meeting took place in May 2013 but the CCTV camera failed to synch the actual date that time.
Ad hoc committee probe
On Wednesday, Esmeralda and Lasala faced members of an ad hoc committee from the NBI who are investigating the supposed meeting with Napoles.
De Lima refused to comment on the supposed involvement of her former husband in Napoles' visit at the NBI.
"I don't want to comment on that because of the ongoing ad hoc committee investigation. I've already been aware of that long before but I don't want to say anything that might affect the NBI investigation," said De Lima.
Apart from Rojas, Esmeralda and Lasala confirmed that the second NBI official who had met with Napoles while she was being pursued by arresting authorities was NBI Deputy Director Rafael Ragos.
Esmeralda said Ragos had met with Napoles three times although none of the meeting was caught on CCTV camera. He said one of the meetings took place at the Manila Hotel.
"And he was proud telling us na siya ang nag-advice kay Napoles na sumulat kay Presidente," Esmeralda said.
Ragos also refused to comment on the issue: "In deference sa ad hoc committee, sa kanila muna ako sasagot regarding statement in Esmeralda. I hope you understand in due time sasagot po ako."
After facing the ad hoc committee members, Lasala told reporters: "We are satisfied the way the NBI is handling the probe. They are very impartial. We want to reiterate that we have nothing to do with Napoles and that our conscience is clear. We have no connections [with her]."
Clear our names
Esmeralda, meanwhile, said he only wants his and Lasala's names be cleared in the controversy as he plans to retire afterwards.
Esmeralda and Lasala also said that the NBI panel would soon be issuing subpoenas to three NBI agents the two had identified as having knowledge of the meetings with Napoles.
Asked why it took them almost a year before they decided to release the CCTV footage to the public, Esmeralda said he was forced to show it only now after they were dismissed due to accusations they are conspiring with Napoles.
"Kaya tiniyaga kong i-review ang CCTV footage," said Esmeralda, who was NBI deputy director for intelligence services.
Rojas had earlier confirmed that Napoles had once dropped by his office while he was still NBI chief. He resigned from the NBI last September following reports that two of his deputies had tipped off Napoles about her impending arrest.
Authorities had failed to arrest Napoles, until she surrendered in August that year.
A criminal complaint had been filed against Napoles for allegedly holding her employee Benhur Luy, a whistleblower in the pork barrel scam, against his will.
Rojas said the eventual upholding of the illegal detention complaint against Napoles and the filing of a case in court were the results of “exhaustive documents to the investigating prosecutor.”
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