Sandiganbayan denies Napoles plea, upholds plunder conviction

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Janet Lim-Napoles (Inquirer.net photo)

The Sandiganbayan dismissed the motion for reconsideration filed by alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and upheld their verdict of finding her guilty of acquiring P124.5 million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The anti-graft court released the 16-page resolution dated March 13 on Monday, April 1. They recalled the decision last December 2018 wherein Napoles was convicted along with Revilla’s legislative officer Richard Cambe.

The court denied Napoles’ claim that she could not be the main plunderer since she was a private individual. The Sandiganbayan First Division ruled that Napoles and Cambe are both main plunderers in the case.

Pork barrel scam whistleblowers – Benhur Luy, Merlina Suñas, Marina Sula and Arlene Baltazar came forward to testify that they only deal with Cambe regarding the PDAF insertions. However, they did not let Napoles off the hook since she was often present during transactions.

“A conspiracy between Cambe and Luy, to the exclusion of Napoles could not be possible, because the NGOs, through which the funds were diverted, were all creations of Napoles,” the ruling stated as reported by The Philippine Star.

“Napoles has control of the bank accounts of these NGOs, all payments of kickbacks to Cambe were made either in the presence of Napoles or under her instructions,” the anti-graft court added.

The same court acquitted senatorial candidate Bong Revilla due to the prosecution’s failure to link the former senator to the multimillion scam. Since “the line or the connection between the money from Cambe to Revilla was not established with certainty.”

However, it maintained that there was”overwhelming evidence” to pinpoint Cambe and Napoles as the main plunderers in the case because “Cambe was caught with the proverbial ‘money bag’ clearly in his hands, with no sign that it was passed on to his ‘boss.’”

“The prosecution was able to prove in evidence that Napoles, although a private individual, not only deliberately performed acts that led to a series of misappropriation, conversion for private gain or misuse of government funds, specifically the PDAF of former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. but also took part in the conception or ‘planning’ of how to divert the PDAF for private gain,” the ruling stated.

“In fact, every time a big withdrawal is made from these bank accounts, it was Napoles whom the bank calls to verify or confirm the withdrawals, instead of the NGO’s president or officers,” it added as reported by The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The court decision penned by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg ruled that Napoles and Cambe be sentenced to “reclusion perpetua,” or imprisonment of up to 40 years. They were also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

Napoles is serving her sentence at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City, while Cambe has been sent to New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

Cases implicating former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, remain pending in the Third and Fifth Divisions of the Sandiganbayan. Enrile, Estrada and Revilla are running for senator in May’s midterm elections. 

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