PORK barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles will ask the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division anew to let her post bail in the plunder case she is facing along with former senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and several others for the misuse of priority development assistance funds (PDAF).
“We will file here with the Fifth Division first then we will also see about the others,” said Napoles lawyer Dennis Buenaventura, two days after Estrada was allowed by the anti-graft court to post bail.
The court, in a special division of five justices, voted 3-2 to let Estrada, in detention since 2014, gain provisional liberty on September 15. Estrada posted bail of P1.3 million.
Reversing previous decisions, the Sandiganbayan took as precedent last year’s Supreme Court ruling that acquitted former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of plunder in connection with the supposed misuse of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s intelligence funds.
The Sandiganbayan cited the prosecution’s failure to identify Estrada as the “main plunderer” and the supposed lack of evidence that he stole at least P50 million in public funds – the legal threshold for plunder.
Buenaventura said: “In so far as we’re concerned, this (Estrada ruling) is favorable.”
“Supposedly the nature of the information doesn’t really amount to plunder, the nature of who the main plunderer is and everything. It became clear in the GMA (Arroyo) case,” he added.
Buenaventura also pointed out that Napoles cannot be charged with plunder because she is not a public official.
“The legal definition of plunder is…the main plunderer cannot be a private person, it should be a public officer so if at all, if it appears like that, this is not plunder, this is something else, very different,” he said.
Last year, Estrada filed an omnibus motion asking the court to, among others, dismiss the plunder case and/or grant him bail in light of the Supreme Court decision, which dismissed for lack of evidence the plunder case filed against Arroyo.
Estrada’s lawyers also claimed the former senator had endured varied ailments or diseases during his detention that have deteriorated his physical, mental and emotional state, “accented by his indescribable deepening depressions and disturbing emotions, triggered by the absence/longing of the members of his family…aggravated by his lonely and sleepless nights, etc. to live a life and liberty that he used to enjoy before his unwarranted confinement.”
Napoles — who is detained at a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City — is also facing a plunder case along with former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. before the Sandiganbayan’s First Division and with former senator Juan Ponce Enrile before the court’s Third Division.
The court’s Fourth Division and Fifth Division earlier granted her bail petitions in the plunder case filed against former Masbate representative Rizalina Seachon-Lanete and that against former Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives representative Edgar Valdez, respectively, in connection with the PDAF scam.
But she remains detained because the court’s First, Third, and Fifth Divisions have denied her pleas for bail in the respective plunder cases filed against Revilla, Estrada and Enrile.
The court’s First Division has also denied the bail pleas of Revilla and his former aide Richard Cambe.
Revilla is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center while Enrile went out on bail after the Supreme Court, in 2015, granted his bail petition on humanitarian grounds.
Revilla has said he would leave it to his lawyers to convince the court to let him post bail.
The trial of Estrada’s plunder case, which was scheduled Monday, was reset to October 2 for lack of quorum.
The prosecution will ask the court to reconsider the grant of bail to Estrada, said Ma. Christina Marallag-Batacan of the prosecution panel.
“We have good grounds so I hope that the grant of bail will be reversed,” she told reporters.