Napoles lawyer hits Sandigan ‘special treatment’ of ‘pork’ trial
The lawyer of accused “pork barrel scam” mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles has questioned the Sandiganbayan for allegedly giving special treatment to the latter’s plunder trial.
In an interview on the first day of the trial on Wednesday, lawyer Stephen David said the court seemed to give special favor to the plunder trial of Napoles and Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes by giving it half-day sessions twice a week.
The Third Division has set the plunder trial twice a week every Wednesday and Thursday.
The court seemed to be giving preference to the pork barrel scam trial over other cases of equal importance, which were usually conducted simultaneous with other trial proceedings, David said.
“Ang strange yun, binigyan ka pa ng special session from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon. Kung titingnan mo, ordinarily, dapat kahit dun sa regular schedule na sabay sabay. Talagang nakakagulat na ito, 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon, exclusive, dalawang araw pa,” David said.
“Dapat equal protection dapat lahat ng kaso. Bakit ito lang? Ilan bang kaso ang pending dito?… Bakit kailangan mong i-sacrifice yung ibang hundreds of cases na nasa regular schedule? Bakit ito, dalawa pa, exclusive the whole morning?” he added.
David also said the court ordered Napoles’ appearance even though she had requested to waive her appearance in the plunder trial.
David said Napoles wanted to waive her appearance in court due to the security risks of traveling to the Sandiganbayan from the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City, where Napoles is sentenced to life in prison for the serious illegal detention of principal witness Benhur Luy.
“Kami rin nagugulat dun eh kasi usually pag mayroon kang waiver of appearance e hindi ka na kailangang mag-appear, kasi karapatan ng akusado kung attend ka o hindi,” David said.
“Ang problema sa sitwasyon ni Mrs. Napoles, problema sa security niya, from correctional pupunta pa rito, ang dami pang abala sa mga tao, syempre gastos ng gobyerno yan. Ayaw naman natin yun,” he added.
Napoles and Reyes are being tried for plunder in the case of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who is out on bail.
Enrile’s plunder trial was deferred pending the Supreme Court’s decision on the appeal of the Ombudsman against the high court’s grant of bail to Enrile on humanitarian grounds. Enrile was under hospital detention before he was allowed bail.
For the trial proper, whistle-blower Marina Sula, Napoles’ custodian at JLN Corp., took the witness stand and testified how she forged signatures of supposed incorporators in the bogus foundations allegedly used by the latter to implement ghost projects.
Napoles and Reyes attended the first day of plunder trial.
Wearing a yellow sweater and draped in a pink blanket, Reyes looked pale as she witnessed the first day of her trial. But she looked more composed than her previous appearances, her face and hair made up for the trial proceeding.
She was also seen talking lively with her lawyers, but looked calm as she sat listening to the witness’ testimony.
Meanwhile, Napoles, garbed in the orange blouse of women convicts, laughed at Sula’s testimony pinning her as the person who had ultimate control over the spurious foundations and ghost implementations of pork projects.
Seated nearby each other, Napoles and Reyes were seen exchanging small talk at least twice during the hearing. Napoles was seated in front, while Reyes was close behind her.
As Napoles was escorted outside after the hearing, Napoles was heard mouthing to reporters: “Hindi man lamang kami nag-usap ni Gigi. Sabi niya lang, malamig.”
Enrile is accused of receiving P172.8 million in kickbacks from Napoles through his alleged agents Ruby Tuason and Reyes.
Enrile is out on bail from hospital detention after the Supreme Court considered his petition citing his advanced age and political stature.
While Enrile is granted bail, Reyes is detained at the female dormitory of the Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City pending her plunder trial.
In denying bail for Napoles and Reyes, the Sandiganbayan in its resolution had taken credence in witness Tuason’s testimony and said Reyes received the kickbacks from Napoles even though there was still no evidence Enrile directly benefited from it.
Tuason is the self-confessed agent of Enrile who allegedly met up with Reyes to deliver the senator’s kickbacks.
The alleged pork barrel scam is an elaborate scheme of using the legislators’ congressional lump sum fund Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) in “ghost” projects through Napoles’ bogus foundations to earn kickbacks.
The antigraft court is also hearing the plunder cases of detained Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, as well as of former Apec Rep. Edgar Valdez and dismissed Masbate Gov. Rizalina Lanete.
Estrada and Revilla are detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center, while Lañete and Valdez, are incarcerated at the Camp Bagong Diwa.
Napoles faces multiple counts of plunder, malversation and graft. RC