'Injustice was done to her,' says Calida
MANILA (UPDATE) – Solicitor General Jose Calida on Wednesday said a local court “erred” in handing a guilty verdict on alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in her serious illegal detention case.
“In the case of Napoles, it is my well-considered opinion, as well as the opinion of my assistant solicitor generals, that the court, the Regional Trial Court, erred in convicting the accused, Janet Napoles, for the crime of serious illegal detention,” Calida said in a news conference.
“When we look at the evidence, the transcript of records, there are many glaring instances which will support the acquittal of the accused.”
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) first reported that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed with the Court of Appeals a “manifestation in lieu of rejoinder” recommending the acquittal of Napoles for the crime of serious illegal detention of her second cousin, whistleblower Benhur Luy.
The OSG’s move prompted critics and observers to allege that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte may have already reached a modus vivendi with Napoles.
Calida, however, said his office’s move to ask for Napoles’ acquittal was done in the interest of justice.
He said, Duterte "has nothing to do with this decision."
"The President does not instruct his Cabinet members what to do," he said.
“What deal are you talking about? There is no deal. My interest is to see to it that justice is done.”
Calida also dismissed rumors that the OSG’s move in Napoles’ serious illegal detention case will have implications to her pork barrel scam cases, where several politicians have been implicated and detained.
“There is no connection or link. Perhaps, it is the fertile imagination of the writers of that [PCIJ] article,” he said.
‘LUY CONDUCT QUESTIONABLE’
In asking the appellate court to have a second look at Napoles’ serious illegal detention case, Calida argued that Luy’s behavior at the time of his supposed illegal detention is questionable.
“His behavior belies the fact that he was actually detained or deprived of his liberty. With facts like this, can you in conscience say that she [Napoles] should be convicted for the crime of serious illegal detention?” Calida said.
“It is very unfair if Janet Napoles will suffer incarceration for life for a crime she did not commit. That is a travesty of justice which my office cannot countenance.”
Calida noted, court records show that Luy had several chances to escape from a retreat house in Magallanes Village, where he was supposedly detained, but opted not to.
He also noted that Luy also had access to a cellphone and in fact wrote a letter to his relatives saying he was not being held against his will.
He also said Luy was even able to see his family at least three times during the time of his supposed detention.
“According to witnesses, he acted like any other normal person who would undergo retreat,” Calida said.
“There was no witness presented that would show there was restraint of movement when he was in the retreat house.”
Calida also highlighted the supposed rescue of Luy by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents at a condominium unit in Taguig. He said, during that incident, Luy actually refused to go with his rescuers, denying he was being held against his will.
“Benhur Luy refused to go with the agents. He shouted, insisted he had not been kidnapped by Reynaldo Lim,” Calida said, referring to Napoles’ brother.
In April 2015, the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) found Napoles guilty of serious illegal detention of Luy.
Makati RTC Branch 150, headed by Judge Elmo Alameda, imposed on Napoles the highest penalty under Philippine laws - reclusion perpetua or 20 years and one day up to 40 years imprisonment. She was also ordered to pay moral damages amounting to P100,000.
Napoles is now serving her life sentence at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City, while her brother remains at-large.
Former Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Juan Ponce Enrile were indicted and jailed for the so-called Napoles pork barrel scam. Enrile is currently out on bail.