Sandiganbayan upholds Napoles' plunder conviction in PDAF scam

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 01 2019 12:19 PM | Updated as of Apr 01 2019 02:05 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 1st Division has denied Janet Lim Napoles' motion to reverse the guilty verdict in a plunder case related to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Napoles, who is serving her sentence at the Correctional Institution for Women, had argued in her motion that there was no main plunderer in the case after former Senator Bong Revilla was acquitted.

But in the resolution of the court promulgated on March 13, it was noted that the Office of the Ombudsman filed the plunder case in connection with the PDAF scam against Revilla and his staff Richard Cambe, putting emphasis on the word “and.”

“While the court did not find sufficient evidence for the pronouncement of guilt on the part of Revilla, there is overwhelming evidence presented to show that his co-accused, Cambe, who is a government official together with accused movant Janet Lim Napoles are the main plunderers in this case,” the court said.

The court also disagreed with Napoles' contention that the amount supposedly plundered by Cambe was below the P50 million threshold and insisted that based on the documentary evidence from whistleblower Benhur Luy, the total amount plundered was P124.5 million.

The court also stressed Napoles' participation in the movement of PDAF funds because she created the non-government organizations involved.

“In fact, every time a big withdrawal is made from these bank accounts, it was Napoles whom the bank calls to verify or confirm the withdrawals, instead of the NGO’s president or officers,” the court said. 

The court also noted that the testimonies of the whistleblowers on the liquidation of PDAF “substantiate and support each other,” despite Napoles questioning their credibility.

“Certainly, Luy and the other JLN staff performed certain acts that contributed to the commission of the crime of plunder by Napoles and Cambe. But this does not exclude Napoles from the picture,” the court said. 

The resolution was penned by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg, with the concurrence of Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona and Division Chairperson Efren de la Cruz who put a marginal note indicating “in the result.”

De la Cruz had dissented from the the majority opinion of the 5-person special division which acquitted Revilla.