Napoles, Lanete granted bail from plunder over pork barrel scam
The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division has granted the bail of accused mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and dismissed Masbate governor Rizalina Seachon-Lanete from plunder over the pork barrel scam.
Although being granted bail, Napoles cannot be released from detention because her bail had been denied in other divisions hearing other lawmakers’ plunder cases where she was also charged
She is also serving life sentence at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong for the serious illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy.
The court granted the bail of dismissed Masbate governor Lanete from plunder, initially a non-bailable offense, Atty. Laurence Arroyo confirmed.
Lanete’s son, Atty. Jesi Lanete, paid P500,000 bail from plunder and P330,000 bail from 11 counts of graft at the Sandiganbayan cashier for a total amount of P830,000 bail.
Lanete’s grant of bail thus allows her to campaign for her reelection bid as governor in Masbate for a third and last term.
Lanete has been in detention at the Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig since she surrendered on Feb. 2015.
Arroyo said Lanete’s name was still included in the ballot even though the Ombudsman dismissed her service and perpetually barred her from public office for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in connection with her pork barrel scam charges.
Arroyo said Lanete may still run because her dismissal is still a subject of a motion for reconsideration before the Ombudsman.
Lanete was the first lawmaker embroiled in the pork barrel scam granted bail by the Sandiganbayan. Meanwhile, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile was allowed to post bail by the Supreme Court due to humanitarian reasons.
The anti-graft court Fifth Division would later also grant the bail of another lawmaker detained for plunder, former APEC representative Edgar Valdez.
According to the court decision promulgated Tuesday, the prosecution failed to clearly prove that Lanete received from Napoles the threshold P50 million kickbacks to constitute plunder.
“The Court is of the opinion that the evidence, presented by the prosecution, of the guilt of accused Lanete and accused Napoles is not strong,” the court said.
The court said this was because the prosecution even admitted that Napoles and Lanete never met personally, and that Lanete never attended the parties or sponsored Masses, or visited the office of Napoles.
The prosecution had also admitted that Lanete and Napoles never met personally to discuss the percentage of kickbacks.
Witness Luy had also said that he handed the kickbacks not to Napoles but to Lanete’s chief of staff Jose Sumalpong, who is at large for plunder.
The court said there were some instances that Lanete’s projects with Napoles were not “ghost projects” after all.
“Luy himself claims that accused Lanete once talked to him over the phone, asking that the vests to be delivered in her favorite color orange. This shows that there was indeed a delivery of items,” the court said.
The court, however, reminded in its resolution that the grant of bail should not be considered a prejudgement or a disposition of the case.
Lanete is accused of pocketing P108.405 million allegedly siphoned from her Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) from 2004 to 2010.
She is detained at the female dormitory of Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.
In its complaint, the Ombudsman said Lanete, when she was Masbate representative, misused P112.29 million of PDAF from 2007 to 2009.
Based on whistleblower Benhur Luy’s ledger, Lanete from 2004 to 2010 received P108.405 million in kickbacks, of which P73.065 million were siphoned from Lanete’s PDAF from 2007 to 2009.
In its indictment, the Ombudsman said “Lanete continuously endorsed the implementation of her PDAF-funded livelihood and agricultural projects to questionable NGOs associated with or controlled by Napoles.”
“(Lanete’s) P112.29 million PDAF was anomalously used for livelihood projects, financial assistance to farmers, farm inputs and farm implements, skills training and distribution of livelihood kits in nail care, wellness, massage and candle- making. Several Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) were entered into between Lanete, Technology Resource Center, National Agribusiness Corp and the NGO-partners,” the Ombudsman said.
Lanete is part of the first batch of lawmakers charged for purportedly pillaging public funds in ghost projects for kickbacks in connivance with accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
APEC Rep. Edgar Valdez also faces plunder for allegedly raking in P57.787 million in kickbacks. His bail had just been granted.
Meanwhile, facing malversation raps are former Agusan Del Sur. Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa, and Cagayan De Oro Rep. Constantino Jaraula.
The antigraft court is also hearing the plunder cases of detained senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.
With their bail pleas denied, Revilla and Estrada are detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center. CDG
Ombudsman sacks Masbate governor over pork barrel misuse
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.