MANILA – Alleged “pork barrel scam queen” Janet Lim Napoles has asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Sandiganbayan’s denial of her bid to junk one of the plunder cases against her.
She also asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the plunder trial.
In a petition filed on October 3, Napoles questioned 3 resolutions issued by the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division which denied her demurrer to evidence, essentially a motion to dismiss on the ground of insufficiency of evidence, and a separate motion to dismiss premised on the anti-graft court’s supposed lack of jurisdiction because the criminal charge did not allege a main plunderer.
This is in connection with the P183-million plunder charge against former Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who allegedly received kickbacks from fake projects coursed through bogus NGOs, in what is largely known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF scam.
In her petition, Napoles cited the court’s September 2017 ruling allowing Estrada to post P1.3-million bail because he was not supposedly identified as a main plunderer.
The main plunderer doctrine, which requires prosecutors to allege and prove a master plunderer as an essential requirement in the crime of plunder, was only introduced in 2016 when the Supreme Court acquitted former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) scam, in a decision penned by now Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin.
The plunder case against Estrada and Napoles was filed in 2014.
“Simply put, without a public officer identified as the main plunderer, the crime of plunder can never prosper against the private person singly, such as herein petitioner,” Napoles argued.
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division issued 2 subsequent resolutions identifying Estrada and one of his employees as the main plunderers but Napoles said no evidence was presented to prove that Estrada received and personally benefited from the supposedly plundered amount, invoking the Sandiganbayan First Division’s acquittal of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. in December last year.
“[E]ven if the prosecution will arduously argue that it presented enough evidence to show that accused Estrada is the main plunderer, it will not validate the void Information or prove an offense which does not legally exist, owing to the fact that one of the essential elements thereof has not been alleged in the Information,” she said.
The Sandiganbayan allowed Napoles and Estrada to file the demurrer in March this year only to deny it in June citing sufficient testimonial and documentary evidence against the accused.
Napoles had earlier been convicted of plunder in connection with the Revilla case together with Richard Cambe, Revilla’s former aide.
She is facing another plunder case with former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile as well as graft and malversation of public funds charges over the P900-million Malampaya fund scam.
In April 2015, a Makati court sentenced her to up to 40 years in prison over the serious illegal detention case filed against her by her cousin and former employee Benhur Luy, who blew the lid off the PDAF scam.
She was later acquitted in May 2017 after the Office of the Solicitor General recommended her acquittal backed by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.