MANILA - Former businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, after repeated absences, finally signed Wednesday a court order that allowed the start of the graft trial against her and former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile over their alleged involvement in the multibillion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
Napoles was the last of 15 accused to sign the pre-trial order, which lists proposed witnesses and evidence in connection with the alleged misuse of millions of pesos in "pork barrel" or discretionary congressional funds.
The Sandiganbayan 3rd Division set the start of the trial proper on Feb. 26 and succeeding Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Justices earlier questioned Napoles' absences from its proceedings due to supposed high blood sugar levels and ordered her lawyers to submit her medical records.
Napoles' camp has yet to comply with the order, said division clerk of court Dennis Pulma.
The separate plunder trial of Napoles and Enrile will resume on Feb. 18.
Prosecutors are finding it difficult to submit a list of witnesses because they are also involved in other pending PDAF scam cases at the Sandiganbayan, Deputy Special Prosecutor Manuel Soriano told the court.
“They should make themselves available,” Associate Justice Ronald Moreno said of the witnesses.
The 95-year-old Enrile is accused of pocketing kickbacks from supposed ghost projects with Napoles' help. The Supreme Court in 2016 freed the former lawmaker due to the "instability of his health and his advanced age."
He ran for senator again in 2019 but lost his bid.
His graft and plunder cases, filed in 2014, lagged behind other PDAF scam cases after his lawyers filed several manifestations before the Sandiganbayan and the Supreme Court.
Napoles meanwhile was sentenced to life in prison in 2015 over the illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy.
- Report from Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News