Sandigan clears Napoles of graft raps in P15-M ‘pork barrel’ case

Sandigan clears Napoles of graft raps in P15-M ‘pork barrel’ case

/ 04:50 AM April 16, 2024

Sandigan clears Napoles of graft raps in P 15-M ‘pork barrel’ case

Janet Lim-Napoles

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has acquitted businesswoman and alleged “pork barrel” scam queen Janet Lim-Napoles of graft charges over the supposed irregular disbursement of P15 million from a lawmaker’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2005.

In a 35-page decision dated April 12, the court’s Second Division also cleared several of her coaccused, including former provincial officials of the regional Department of Agriculture (DA) in Nueva Ecija and private individuals, after the prosecution failed to establish their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


READ: Postscript to the Napoles ‘pork’ scam


The case was in connection with the allegedly irregular and unlawful disbursement of P15 million from former Nueva Ecija Rep. Aurelio Umali’s PDAF to nongovernmental organizations Samahan ng mga Manininda ng Prutas sa Gabi Inc. (SMPGI) and the Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.

Prosecutors had charged Umali, several regional DA officials and officers of the involved organizations with four charges of graft and three charges of malversation.

The Ombudsman then indicted Umali, former DA officer in charge-regional executive director Renato Manantan, former accountant Narcisa Maningding, and SMPGI officers Anita Tansipek and Corazon Bautista for malversation.

They were also included in the graft charge, but this time, with former DA accountant Renato Manalansan and private individuals Evelyn de Leon and Napoles.

The graft and malversation case against Umali, however, was dismissed in 2019.

READ: Napoles found guilty of 8 graft, malversation raps; given 64 yrs in jail



In acquitting them, the antigraft court said that conspiracy among the accused individuals was not established, as it pointed out that this must be proven based on facts “and not on mere speculations.”

The PDAF allocation of Umali was intended for liquid fertilizer and irrigation pumps to be distributed among his constituents in Nueva Ecija’s third district.

According to the court, an analysis of the evidence on record “fails to yield the conclusion” that the accused were “motivated with evident bad faith” for the disbursement of the P15 million in checks.

“The prosecution did not conduct any cross-examination of the accused notwithstanding the opportunity to do so,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Arthur Malabaguio and Oscar Herrera Jr., the division chair.

The court noted that the prosecution “relied heavily” on the statements of “whistleblower” Marina Sula, who was the self-confessed “subaltern” of Napoles in the transactions.

However, there was no “discernible effort” from the prosecution to present the whistleblower to testify on her statements, it added.

“It should be stressed that not one of the prosecution witnesses testified on the existence of [a] conspiracy between the accused public officers and accused private individuals,” the court said.

This led to the court’s decision to acquit Napoles, Manantan, Maningding and De Leon on charges of graft. For malversation, the court cleared Manantan, Maningding, Tansipek and Bautista.

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Manalansan died during the proceedings, resulting in the automatic dismissal of the cases against him.

TAGS: Napoles, PDAF, pork barrel scam, Sandiganbayan

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