MANILA (UPDATED) - Alleged pork barrel scam queen Janet Napoles was found guilty by the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) of serious illegal detention of scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.
Makati RTC Branch 150 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 worth P100,000.
Luy’s lawyer, Raji Mendoza, confirmed the news, saying Judge Elmo Alameda of Branch 150 read the entire decision on Tuesday.
The court said Napoles detained her former aide Luy between December 2012 to March 2013 to prevent him from disclosing information about the pork barrel scam, one of the worst corruption cases in Philippine history.
Napoles had claimed Luy misappropriated around P5 million using her name. She also alleged Luy stole money from her.
Napoles temporarily went into hiding when news of the pork barrel scam broke out. She later surrendered to President Aquino in Malacanang and was subsequently detained in Fort Sto. Domingo, Laguna. She was later transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.
The scam supposedly involves the diversion of some P10 billion of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fake non-government organizations and bogus projects.
Police has since been transporting Napoles from Taguig to hear her separate graft and plunder cases before the Sandiganbayan in Quezon City. Named in those cases were several lawmakers.
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla are only a few of the government officials already detained while awaiting the prosecution of their cases before the anti-graft court.
Several government officials, including a Sandiganbayan justice, have also been removed from office because of their alleged involvement in the scam.
“He [Luy] wasn’t able to attend today, but he is thankful for the public support… He thanks the public for looking out not just for him, but for the whole country as well,” Mendoza told ANC.
Luy was not allowed to attend since he is under the Witness Protection Program.
Napoles, meanwhile, has an option to have the case reviewed before the court or higher courts.