Sandiganbayan denies Napoles, Lanete attempt to junk PDAF cases

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 01 2022 12:07 PM

The Sandiganbayan building in Quezon City on Feb. 19, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File
The Sandiganbayan building in Quezon City on Feb. 19, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The Sandiganbayan has denied an attempt by ex-businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and former Masbate Third District Rep. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete to dismiss their plunder and graft cases in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam. 

In separate resolutions dated Nov. 25 and Nov. 21, 2022, the court's Fourth Division denied the motions for leave to file demurrer to evidence of Napoles and Seachon-Lanete, saying the issues they raised are better resolved through a full-blown trial of the cases. 

The motion is a preliminary step before filing the demurrer to evidence itself, which seeks to dismiss a case based on prosecution's failure to present sufficient evidence. 

"The testimonial and documentary evidence presented by the prosecution, unless successfully rebutted by the accused, are sufficient to support a verdict of guilt against accused Napoles," the court said in the Nov. 25 resolution on Napoles. 

The issues raised by Napoles included the lack of probative value of the pieces of evidence of the prosecution such as photocopies of public documents.

Napoles and Lanete are facing graft and plunder charges filed in 2015 for allegedly pocketing over P108 million in kickbacks from 2007 to 2010.

The court reiterated the strong evidence against Seachon-Lanete in the Nov. 21 resolution, which also denied the similar motions of accused Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana and Dennis Cunanan.

In her motion, Seachon-Lanete noted, among others, that the prosecution failed to prove that she signed documents related to the PDAF scam.

She also emphasized that her application for bail in 2016 was granted by the court because the evidence of her guilt is not strong.

“The testimonial and documentary evidence presented by the prosecution, unless successfully rebutted by the accused, are prima facie sufficient to support a verdict of guilty against the accused-movants,” the court said in its Nov. 21 resolution.

Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna penned the resolution, with the concurrence of Division Chairperson Michael Frederick Musngi and Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto.

While Seachon-Lanete is out on bail, Napoles is serving her sentence at the Correctional Institution for Women following her conviction in the plunder case which involved Sen. Bong Revilla, who was acquitted by the Sandiganbayan in 2018. 

In 2013, the Supreme Court declared PDAF unconstitutional.

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