MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Sandiganbayan has denied for the second time the bail plea of Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the supposed pork barrel scam.
“Wherefore, accused Janet Lim-Napoles’ petition for bail, filed on July 7, 2014, is hereby denied for lack of merit,” Sandiganbayan Third Division clerk of court Dennis Pulma announced Friday, reading from the 249-page ruling penned by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.
The Third Division, who has been hearing Napoles’ petition to post bail for a plunder case since July last year, said the prosecution was able to present strong evidence to warrant a full-blown trial to prove the guilt of the embattled businesswoman.
“There is a determination by the court that the evidence of guilt against the accused is strong. But let me clarify that this does not mean that the guilt has already been found,” Pulma said, explaining the ruling.
“This is not a prejudgement on the merits of the case. The finding of whether there is guilt beyond reasonable doubt must be done during the trial proper,” he added.
Pulma said the Napoles’ camp has 15 days to file their motion for reconsideration, “otherwise the decision is considered final.”
Napoles is facing multiple plunder and graft charges in all the five divisions of the Sandiganbayan as a co-accused of several lawmakers in connection with her alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Plunder is a non-bailable offense if the prosecution is able to prove that the evidence against the accused is strong.
Napoles is facing plunder and graft charges In the Third Division as co-accused of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, who allegedly misallocated P345-million worth of his Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel to the fake non-government organizations (NGOs) she allegedly owned.
Enrile is accused of receiving P172-million worth of kickbacks from Napoles in exchange for the alleged misallocation of his PDAF.
However, last August, Enrile was able to post bail for his temporary liberty, after the Supreme Court granted his petition, citing humanitarian considerations such as his frail health condition.
In its ruling, the Third Division said that while the evidence of guilt against Enrile and his former chief-of-staff Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes has yet to be established, the prosecution was able to show that the senator had endorsed Napoles’ alleged NGOs to implement his PDAF-funded projects and that money from his PDAF went to Napoles.
“Indeed, based on the evidence presented by the prosecution, the funds that were intended for the PDAF-funded projects of Senator Enrile were diverted to the personal accounts of accused Napoles,” the court’s ruling said.
“As above-discussed, the prosecution had presented clear and strong evidence which leads to a well-guarded dispassionate judgement that the offense of plunder has been committed as charged; that accused Napoles is guilty thereof; and that she will probably be punished capitally if the law were administered at this stage of the proceedings,” irt added.
Meanwhile, in his concurring opinion, Martires said he opted to deny Napoles’ bail petition as the businesswoman is a “flight-risk” as proven when she went into hiding in August 2013 when the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 issued a warrant of arrest against her for a serious illegal detention case.
The case was filed by her second-cousin and former right-hand man, Benhur Luy, who is also the primary state witness in the pork barrel scam.
“For 14 days she was hunted by the combined forces and agencies with a bounty of P10 million. It was only on August 28, 2013 that she surfaced and surrendered to President Aquino,” Martires said.
“This is very clear warning that the accused Napoles is a flight risk. For this reason, I voted to deny the bail petition,” Martires said.
In a text message, Napoles’ lawyer, Stephen David maintained that the prosecution was not able to present a strong evidence against her nor against Enrile and Reyes.
“How can the petition be denied when the prosecution themselves admitted that they have no evidence,” David said.
David said they will file a motion for reconsideration within the 15-day period.
The Sandiganbayan First Division had earlier denied the bail petition of Napoles and Sen. Ramon Bong Revilla Jr., one of the three senators charged in connection with the alleged scam.
Meanwhile, the Fifth Division has yet to conclude the hearing of the petition to post bail of Napoles and Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who is accused of benefitting from the scam.
Revilla and Estrada are currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Meanwhile, Napoles is detained at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City after the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 found her guilty of serious illegal detention. She was sentenced to up to 40 years of imprisonment. (MNS)