Sandiganbayan upholds indictment of Napoles brother
MANILA, Philippines—The Sandiganbayan has thrown out for lack of merit the petition filed by the fugitive brother of detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and another co-accused to set aside their arrest warrants in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel racket.
In a ruling promulgated on Aug. 5, the anti-graft court’s Third Division said Reynald John Lim and John Raymund de Asis failed to present documents and new arguments that would warrant the reversal of its earlier ruling, which found probable cause to indict them for plunder.
Lim was a senior officer of Napoles-owned JLN Corp. while De Asis was the president of Kaupdanan Para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc., one of the alleged dummy nongovernment organizations, which Napoles used to hoodwink the government of billions of pesos in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of legislators.
The two were among the respondents in the plunder and graft charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman against Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who is accused of pocketing nearly P173 million of his pork barrel allocation.
“The court finds the joint motion for reconsideration (of Lim and De Asis) devoid of merit,” the court said in a five-page resolution, a copy of which was obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday.
The decision was signed by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje Tang, chair of the Third Division, and Associate Justices Alex Quiroz and Samuel Martires.
“Indeed, the allegation in the information is consistent with the Office of the Ombudsman’s finding that probable cause exists that accused Lim and De Asis conspired with their coaccused in committing plunder…,” it added.
In denying their motion, the court said the pair did not submit “any document or argument evincing the lack of probable cause for their arrest.”
“To begin with, the issue of the sufficiency of the information had been considered and passed upon by the court in its resolution sought to be reconsidered,” the court ruled.
Lim and De Asis had sought the reversal of the court’s July 3 resolution arguing that the allegations contained in the criminal information were “erroneous and contrary” to the earlier findings of the Ombudsman.
They noted that while they were accused of delivering kickbacks to Enrile, the Ombudsman had concluded that the commissions of the 90-year-old lawmaker were given to his former chief of staff, lawyer Lucila Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, and Ruby Tuason.
Lim also maintained that the National Bureau of Investigation did not include him in its complaint and that he was only indicted for graft, a bailable offense.
On the other hand, De Asis claimed he was merely an “all-around errand boy” of Napoles, the suspected brains of the fund scam.
He said while his name was also included as an incorporator of the Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation, the other officials of the Napoles-linked NGO were not named in the complaint submitted by the Ombudsman.
But the court said it had yet to “review in detail” the evidence the Ombudsman had presented against the accused during the preliminary investigation.
“What is required, rather, is that the judge must have sufficient supporting documents… upon which to make his independent judgment or, at the very least, upon which to verify the findings of the prosecutor as to the existence of probable cause,” the court said.
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