MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he agrees with the Court of Appeals' (CA) decision to acquit alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles of a serious illegal detention case filed by whistleblower Benhur Luy.
In a speech before leaving for Cambodia, Duterte said he believes the case is weak as Luy could have left the custody of Napoles a number of times.
"I could not think how the person could be a victim of being hostage when he had all the opportunity [to] go out and never come back... It was, I think -- no offense intended -- sadyang nagpapreso," said Duterte who is also a former prosecutor in Davao City.
In his complaint, Luy alleged that Napoles and her brother, Reynald Lim, ordered his detention for a period of three months, beginning December 20, 2012 up to March 22, 2013, to prevent him from divulging information about the siphoning of billions of pesos in lawmaker’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) and ghost projects.
Napoles was convicted by the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 150 on April 14, 2015, and was sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the Luy P50,000 as civil indemnity and P50,0000 as moral damages.
On Monday the Court of Appeals said it found "reasonable doubt" to acquit Napoles for the crime of serious illegal detention.
The appellate pointed out that Luy "never attempted to escape" nor did he divulge his predicament to anyone, which the magistrates found “baffling” considering that he was in contact with several persons, including priests, on a daily basis.
Asked if he thinks Napoles is qualified to be a state witness in the pork barrel scam, Duterte refused to comment, saying this is for the judge to decide.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre earlier told the Philippine Star that the government is considering Napoles as a state witness as they plan to reinvestigate the pork barrel scam.
But Luy's former counsel, Levi Baligod, believes Napoles would be a weak state witness, considering her inconsistent public statements before.