Sandigan says no need to specify main plunderer in Napoles plunder case
MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan has refuted Janet Lim Napoles’ assertions that the plunder charge against her is invalid for failing to identify a main plunderer, saying there is no need for such.
According to a resolution of the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division dated September 2, Napoles’ co-accused former senator Jinggoy Estrada appears to be the main plunderer, as he is the government official involved in the case.
“The eyes are useless when the mind is blind. It is apparent that the Information refers to Estrada as the mastermind of the PDAF scheme or the main plunderer. The main plunderer is a public officer,” the resolution said.
Napoles has previously filed demurrers to evidence and motions for reconsideration banking on the dismissed plunder case of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, where the court identified a main plunderer.
Napoles also asked the anti-graft court to require the prosecution to reveal its stand on the issue.
However, the Sandiganbayan noted that in the case of Arroyo, all those involved are government officials. As such, it was necessary to state who among the public personalities was primarily responsible.
“In the present Information, only two accused are public officers, Estrada and Labayen. In the Arroyo case, it is hard to determine who the main plunderer is considering that there is an enumeration of the name of all the accused who are all public officials who occupy positions with authority, connections and influence, which is not the case in the present Information,” the anti-graft court said.
“Estrada is a public official, a senator of the Republic, whose PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) -funded projects which turned out to be ghost or fictitious projects, while Labayen is a public employee, a staff of accused Estrada. Estrada was in custody and in control of the subject PDAF, while Labayen was an agent or an intermediary for the latter,” it added.
Previously, the Fifth Division also denied Napoles’ demurrer for a separate plunder case, involving former APEC party-list Rep. Edgar Valdez. Napoles also used the “main plunderer” issue as leverage in questioning the validity of the charges lodged against her. However, the court also insisted on the differences of the two cases.
The specific plunder case against Napoles stemmed from allegations that she gave around P55.79 million worth of kickbacks to Estrada, in exchange for allocating the former solon’s PDAF to bogus non-government organizations created by Napoles.
Napoles was already convicted for plunder in relation to another PDAF case, this time with Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla. Revilla was acquitted while his aide, lawyer Richard Cambe, was convicted of plunder. /muf
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