The Daily Manila Shimbun


Napoles’ acquittal in serious illegal detention case won’t affect plunder raps: officials

May 8, 2017

Malacanang assured on Monday the acquittal of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles from her serious illegal detention case would not affect her plunder cases before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court. The Palace officials also denied that the Duterte administration has "sweetheart" deal with Napoles, whose acquittal came after Solicitor General Jose Calida made a rejoinder in the businesswoman's appeal to dismiss her case before the Court of Appeals. "The Court of Appeals acquitting Ms. Janet Napoles involves her illegal detention case. It has no direct impact on her pork-barrel cases," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement. Napoles, allegedly in connivance with some lawmakers, is also facing plunder charges for allegedly masterminding the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of some senators and congressmen during the previous years. The pork barrel scam exploded after Benhur Luy charged Napoles of serious illegal detention, which the lower court affirmed. Luy is Napoles' relative and former staff who became a whistleblower in the pork barrel scam. "Government is clear that there is no policy shift on how we deal with Napoles. Neither there is an agreement forged between the Duterte administration and Napoles," Abella said. Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo  belied there was a "sweetheart deal" between the administration and Napoles whose former lawyer, Lanee David, is a deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. "The Duterte administration has never, will never, and can never enter into sweetheart deals. It’s very strict on the observance of the rule of law and following the Constitutional due process," Panelo said. Calida, who is the government lawyer and Duterte's appointee, previously said that the lower court erred in convicting Napoles of serious illegal detention as he submitted his own position before the appellate court. While Luy is one of the major witnesses against Napoles' plunder charges, Panelo expressed belief that the latter's acquittal of the serious detention case would not affect the government's cases. "Not necessarily, because in the illegal detention case, while the court might not have believed him, in the plunder cases, it’s not only him being presented. Meaning to say, there will corroborative evidence, whether in the form of documents or corroborative witnesses. If Benhur Luy will testify in court and it could be corroborated by other witnesses, supported by documents, then he becomes credible, insofar as plunder cases are concerned," he explained. Aside from Napoles, at least three former senators are now facing plunder charges also in relation to pork barrel fund mess. Former Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. have been detained in police Camp Crame headquarters due to plunder charges. Former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, 93, who is facing similar case, is out of bail after the Supreme Court showed compassion on him due to old age. (Celerina Monte/DMS)