Napoles not pork 'mastermind', should walk free: lawyer

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 20 2017 09:58 AM | Updated as of Sep 20 2017 10:39 AM

Janet Lim Napoles. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The lawyer of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles insists the latter is not the mastermind of the P10 billion pork barrel scam because it was a crime committed by public officials.

Atty. Stephen David said Napoles hopes to follow the footsteps of former Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who was released on bail on Saturday after more than 3 years in detention for plunder charges.

David said their camp is "contemplating" on asking for bail for Napoles and they will "have to move for the dismissal of the case."

"The beauty for us is they alleged a private person as mastermind, which is not allowed under the law. It goes without saying that this case should be dismissed," he told ANC's Headstart.

"Considering that no less than the Sandiganbayan pronounced in the bail hearing of Senator Jinggoy that there are no clear evidence; what more with us? We are mere private persons," he said.

David cited the Supreme Court acquittal of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's plunder case, where the tribunal ruled that if there was no identified plunderer, "the law presumes that all of them are masterminds, all of them plundered."

"In the case of Arroyo, none was alleged to be the mastermind so they just divided the amount to all of the accused and none reached the threshold of P50 million," adding that the prosecution in the Napoles case failed to allege any government official as mastermind in the scam.

The scam involved fake non-government organizations listed as beneficiaries in several livelihood and agricultural projects to be funded by the lawmakers Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel.

Around P10 billion pork barrel have allegedly been coursed through the Napoles NGOs over the last 10 years.

According to Benhur Luy, Napoles' relative and former employee, Napoles would talk to lawmakers and would promise them commissions equivalent to 40 to 60 percent of the PDAF in exchange for the right to determine the implementing agency and fund beneficiary.

The businesswoman allegedly used her employees, including drivers and nannies, to illegally receive government funds from various legislators using dummy foundations.

David said the naming of Napoles as the mastermind in the multimillion scandal was "political" in nature.

"There were only 3 opposition senators who were jailed whereas if you would consider the entire PDAF involvement and the DAP involvement and every other, even the insertions, you will find that there were not only 3 senators," he said.

"Many from the previous administration should also have been put to jail if that is the way. It was political. It’s very obvious," he added.

The lawyer also maintained that Napoles, a high school graduate, could not have manipulated the entire scheme as alleged by the prosecution.

"The Ombudsman knows very well that plunder is a crime committed by public officers, but they’re alleging that it’s Janet Napoles who committed the plunder with the aid of (the senators)—meaning aide lang niya yung senators," he said.

"Will you agree on that? Will you believe that a mere high school graduate can manipulate senators and congressmen?"

Napoles is facing plunder cases at the Sandiganbayan's 1st and 3rd Divisions, in relation to the cases of former Senators Bong Revilla Juan Ponce Enrile respectively.

Aside from Napoles, the Revilla camp also hinted they will be filing a similar motion for his release after Estrada's bail.

In a majority resolution released last Friday, the 5-person Sandiganbayan Special 5th Division allowed Estrada to post bail, mainly because of the Arroyo decision.

There are two other individuals in detention because of the multi-billion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam: Gigi Reyes, former chief of staff of Enrile, and Richard Cambe, former staff of Revilla.