Sandiganbayan allows Estrada, Napoles to seek plunder case dismissal

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 20 2019 12:52 PM | Updated as of Mar 20 2019 04:47 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 5th Division has granted the motion for leave of court filed by former senator Jinggoy Estrada and businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles to file a demurrer to evidence in their plunder case for their alleged role in the multibillion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam. 

The court has issued similar resolutions on separate pleadings Estrada and Napoles filed to ask that they be allowed to file a demurrer to evidence, a plea that seeks the dismissal of a case due to lack of evidence.

With the motion for leave granted, in case the demurrer to evidence is denied, Estrada and Napoles may still present their own testimonial and documentary evidence in their defense.

So far, only the prosecution has presented evidence before the court, which Estrada and Napoles said are not enough to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The court cited Section 23, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court which states that a demurrer to evidence is an objection by one of the parties to the effect that the evidence which his adversary produced is insufficient in point of law, whether true or not, to sustain the issue.

“After a careful examination of the totality of the evidence presented by the prosecution, both testimonial and documentary, the court resolves to grant the present motion of the accused, to sufficiently provide him an opportunity to challenge the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence establishing the material elements of the offense charged to support a judgment of guilt,” the court said in the resolution on Estrada's plea promulgated March 13.

The two separate but similar resolutions for Estrada and Napoles were signed by Division Chairperson Rafael Lagos and Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann Corpus-Manalac.

The court gave the camps of Estrada and Napoles 10 calendar days to file their demurrer to evidence to challenge the sufficiency of prosecution evidence. 

“Thereafter, the incident shall be deemed submitted for resolution,” the court said.

Estrada, who has been out on bail since September 2017, is currently campaigning for a return to the Senate. Napoles, meanwhile, is held at the women's correctional facility in Mandaluyong City.