The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s Third Division has denied a petition for bail by alleged pork scam brains Janet Lim-Napoles in a P172-million plunder case against Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.
The ruling on Friday came after over a year of hearing Napoles’ petition for bail since August 2014.
Prosecutors presented 29 witnesses, including key pork scam informants Benhur Luy, Marina Sula and Merlina Suñas as well as Ruby Tuason.
“According to the rules, in the petition for bail, the court simply has to determine whether the evidence of guilt is strong against the accused. So in this case, there was a determination of the court in the matter of whether or not the evidence of guilt is strong…
The court found that the evidence of guilt is strong,” Third Division Clerk of Court Dennis Pulma told reporters.
“Let me also be clear that this is not a prejudgment of the merit of the case so what was found only was the evidence of guilt is strong not whether or not the finding is beyond reasonable doubt because… [it]can only be determined after a full-blown trial of the case,” Pulma said.
In a 249-page ruling issued on Friday afternoon, the court found that the prosecution was able to prove that Enrile and his former aide and co-accused Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes conspired with Napoles in receiving alleged kickbacks in connection with the PDAF of Enrile.
“[T]he prosecution was likewise able to prove that the scheme was realized because Senator Enrile and Atty. Reyes took advantage of their respective official positions and influence to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice, of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines,” it said.
“It is true that none of the prosecution witnesses testified that Senator Enrile directly received the kickbacks/commissions/rebates from accused Napoles. Based on the DDRs [Daily Disbursement Reports] of Luy, accused Napoles repeatedly gave kickbacks/commissions/rebates to Senator Enrile’s middle persons,” the court added.
It said Suñas and Luy categorically testified that they were the ones who prepared the documents and money in paying the alleged kickbacks for Enrile.
“These kickbacks/commissions/rebates were given by them or by accused Napoles to Ruby Tuason and the other middle persons of Senator Enrile,” according to the court.
“Although there is no direct evidence that Senator Enrile received the
kickbacks/commissions/rebates repeatedly given by accused Napoles to his middle persons, there is more than compelling evidence, consisting of the testimony of Ruby Tuason, that Atty. Reyes received Senator Enrile’s share,” it said.
“[T]he receipt by Atty. Reyes, who was likewise a public officer at the time material to this case, of the said ill-gotten wealth is sufficient to establish that the crime of plunder was indeed committed and that accused Napoles played a stellar but perfidious role in this grand conspiracy,” the court added.
When sought for comment, defense lawyer Stephen David said in a text message, “How can the petition be denied when the prosecution themselves admitted that they have no evidence?”
David added that they will file a motion for reconsideration.
Earlier, during oral arguments on the bail petition, Third Division Associate Justice Samuel Martires asked the prosecution, “Were you able to present proof that accused Enrile received a single centavo… that was allegedly given by Napoles?”
Martires also asked if they presented proof that Reyes gave the money to Enrile.
“None as of this moment for purposes of this bail hearing,” Prosecutor Edwin Gomez answered.
“We will still maintain that the receipt of Reyes is the receipt of Enrile,” Gomez said.
Enrile–who is out on bail after the Supreme Court granted his bail petition on humanitarian grounds–is one of three senators charged last year in connection with the PDAF scam, the other two being Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada.
The court’s First Division earlier denied Revilla’s bail bid and those of his former aide Richard Cambe and Napoles, while the court’s Fifth Division is hearing bail petitions in the Estrada case.
Napoles is serving a life sentence at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City (Metro Manila) after a Makati City (Metro Manila) court found her guilty in a serious illegal detention case filed by Benhur Luy.
Reyes is detained at a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City (Metro Manila).
Two other respondents in the plunder case–Napoles’ nephew Ronald John Lim and employee John Raymund de Asis–remain at large.