Sandigan denies plea of Napoles, ex-solon to dismiss plunder case
MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan has denied the demurrers to evidence filed by convicted pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and former APEC party-list Rep. Edgar Valdez in relation to their plunder case.
According to a resolution from the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division last August 28, the demurrers were denied because the prosecution has established the validity of the plunder charges. The amount involved allegedly reached over P50 million, and constitutes to plunder in accordance with Republic Act 7080 or the Plunder law.
Valdez allegedly amassed P57.78 million worth in kickbacks by allocating his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to ghost projects of Napoles’ bogus non-government organizations (NGO).
Had the Sandiganbayan granted the demurrers, the charges against Napoles and Valdez would have been dropped due to insufficiency of evidence.
“Valdez and Napoles hypothesize in their respective demurrers that the jurisdictional amount of P50,000,000.00 for the crime of plunder to prosper was not established by the prosecution,” the resolution penned by Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega said.
“The arguments are unpersuasive,” the court added.
The anti-graft court also noted that there is sufficient evidence to show that the accused had amassed ill-gotten wealth, as attested by the Office of the Ombudsman’s fact-finding team.
“[…] It was established that they conducted an investigation on Valdez’s PDAF utilization. They discovered that some of the PDAF projects of the said accused were liquidated but not fully implemented,” it said.
Aside from this argument, the accused also claimed that the information against them has no bearing as it failed to specify who among the accused was the main plunderer. This assertion was also made by Napoles in a separate plunder case, this time involving former Senator Jinggoy Estrada.
The argument hinges on the dismissed plunder case against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, where a main plunderer was identified.
However, the Sandiganbayan noted differences on the present case and Arroyo’s plunder case, where a main plunderer has to be pointed out since all of the accused were public officials when the crime was committed.
“A simple reading of the Information in the instant case readily shows that the main plunderer being charged is Valdez since he is the only public officer named therein, while the other two (2) other accused are private individuals who allegedly acted in connivance with the former,” the court said.
On the other hand, in the Macapagal-Arroyo case, the accused charged in the Information are all public officers […] Thus, it is only logical to identify who the main plunderer as all of them are public officers,” they added.
Valdez surrendered in 2015 after his name was floated as one of the public officials who allegedly conspired with Napoles in the pork barrel scam. He was detained at the Camp Bagong Diwa, but was eventually granted bail as the prosecution then was only able to establish P2.6 million of the supposed kickbacks.
After the denial of their demurrers, the next hearing for the initial presentation of the defense’s evidence was scheduled on September 12 at 1:30 p.m. /muf
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