Napoles’ camp argues: Plunder case should be dismissed if main plunderer wasn’t pinpointed
MANILA, Philippines—Plunder convict Janet Lim Napoles continued to question being charged as a plunderer in the pork barrel scam, saying the information filed against her and accused Jinggoy Estrada did not identify who the main plunderer was.
Filing a motion to dismiss the case because the main plunderer has not been identified, Napoles pointed to the plunder case against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as jurisprudence that would show a key error in the charge filed against her.
The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division, however, said it was not necessary to pinpoint the main plunderer as in plunder cases, the accused public official, in this case former senator Jinggoy Estrada, is automatically charged as the main plunderer.
Napoles said in Arroyo’s case, which led to dismissal, the main plunderer had been identified.
“The riveting question now is whether or not the Information in this case expressly identified accused Estrada as the mastermind or the main plunderer,” said Napoles’ motion to dismiss released to media on Thursday (Sept. 5).
“If accused Estrada is not expressly identified in the Information as the mastermind or the main plunderer, the instant case should be dismissed,” said Napoles.
She said the information filed against her and Estrada, who is out on bail, was defective from the start and should be disregarded for failure to identify the mastermind.
Napoles cited a Supreme Court decision on the plunder case against Arroyo requiring that plunder cases identify the main accused.
She said the Office of the Ombudsman or the court was aware that the main plunderer must be expressly identified in the information “as an essential element of the crime of plunder.”
The Sandiganbayan, however, said Napoles’ reference to the Arroyo case was like comparing apples and oranges. The court said all the accused in the Arroyo case were government officials so there was a need to be explicit about who the main plunderer was.
“The eyes are useless when the mind is blind,” said the court. “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 court resolution said.
Napoles had been convicted of plunder over ghost or overpriced pork barrel projects paid by the government through legislators. The entire scam cost at least P10 billon in funds wasted on nonexistent or overpriced projects. In the case she shares with Estrada alone, Napoles had been accused of giving nearly P56 million in kickbacks to the former senator, well beyond the P50 million threshold for plunder cases.
Napoles’ other case, also plunder with her co-accused Edgar Valdez, a former party-list lawmaker, was moving along after the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division rejected Napoles plea for demurrer of evidence, a legal tactic to abort trial of the case by convincing the court that evidence was weak.
In her case involving Valdez, Napoles also argued that the main plunderer had not been identified./TSB
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