MANILA — Former businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles was acquitted by the Sandiganbayan 1st Division in 16 graft cases in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
The cases were originally filed against Napoles and Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. in 2014.
Revilla was acquitted by the anti-graft court in the plunder case in 2018 while Napoles and other accused individuals were found guilty. Revilla was also eventually acquitted in 2021 in the graft cases when his demurrer to evidence was granted by the court.
In the resolution of the court promulgated Monday, May 22, Napoles was cleared of the 16 graft cases for the failure of the prosecution to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The court said that considering that the charge of plunder against Revilla, his former political officer Atty. Richard Cambe and Napoles also constitute as graft since they are based on “predicate acts”, the liability of the accused could no longer be determined as they were already included in the plunder case for which they were already prosecuted for.
“This fact became even more apparent after the presentation of the same testimonial and documentary evidence in both cases,” the court said in the resolution penned by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg, with the concurrence of Division Chairperson Efren De La Cruz and Associate Justice Arthur Malabaguio.
Also found not guilty were accused Gondelina Amata, Ofelia Ordoñez, Sofia Cruz, Evelyn Sucgang, Francisco Figura, Ma. Rosalinda Lacsamana, Marivic Jover, Consuelo Lilian Espiritu, Victor Roman Cacal and Maria Ninez Guanizo.
The court however found accused Dennis Cunanan, Gregoria Buenaventura, Rhodora Mendoza, Evelyn De Leon, Laarni Uy and Jocelyn Piorato guilty and were sentenced to suffer 6 to 8 years of imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from public office.
The cases against accused Cambe, Eulogio Rodriguez and Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal were dismissed due to their death.
Meantime, in another set of PDAF cases involving the late Davao del Sur representative Douglas Cagas, Napoles was found guilty of two counts of graft and two counts of malversation.
In a decision promulgated on May 19, 2023, the Sandiganbayan 2nd Division noted that the Anti-Money Laundering Council report complemented the testimony of whistleblower Benhur Luy that non-government organizations involved int he PDAF scheme were owned, controlled and operated by Napoles.
Aside from Napoles, accused Belina Concepcion and Mylene Encarnacion, as well as Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana were also found guilty by the court of graft.
“Unfortunately, accused Napoles, Encarnacion and De Leon did not even present any evidence to debunk the above facts,” the court said.
The court ordered Napoles, Concepcion, Encarnacion and Lacsamana to indemnify the government P7.6 million, which was the amount of the PDAF “wrongfully and illegally” disbursed.
The four were also convicted of malversation and ordered to pay a fine of the same amount of P7.6 million.
Others who were implicated in the graft and malversation cases were acquitted, namely Mario Relampagos, Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule, Marilou Bare, Dennis Cunanan, Francisco Figura, Marivic Jover and Maurine Dimaranan, for the failure of the prosecution to prove their guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
The cases of Cagas were also dismissed because of his death in 2021.