Janet Lim-Napoles has asked the Sandiganbayan to scrap the plunder charges against her because she used her own personal money, not government funds, when she gave millions in cash advances to Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
Napoles made the argument on Wednesday in her Motion to Quash Information with Urgent Motion to Recall Warrant of Arrest.
In the 37-page motion submitted thru her lawyer Stephen David, the Napoles camp maintained that the alleged kickbacks or commissions given to lawmakers came from the businesswoman’s personal money or private fund, and that she gave the total amount of P224 million to Revilla or the senator’s chief of staff Richard Cambe or both prior to the release of Revilla’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel for still unfunded projects.
The cash advances apparently were kickbacks or commissions in disguise.
Revilla and the other respondents in the plunder case are accused of siphoning off taxpayers’ money by channeling their PDAF allocation to bogus livelihood projects implemented by fake non-government organizations (NGOs) owned and controlled by Napoles.
“What is clear is that Napoles extended personal loan advances to the accused public officer. These [advances]could not be considered ‘ill-gotten wealth.’ Moreover, the advances were made by Napoles long before the release of the PDAF to the concerned non-government organizations. Based on the foregoing, the plunder information must be quashed and/or dismissed outright because the facts charged therein do not constitute the crime of plunder,” Napoles’ motion read.
Plunder is committed when a public official amasses ill-gotten wealth worth at least P50 million through a combination or series of overt criminal acts by himself or in connivance with members of his family, relatives, business associates and subordinates.
“The information [filed by the Ombudsman]failed to establish the link between the alleged acquisition or receipt of the said amount by Senator Revilla Jr./Cambe to the commission of overt or criminal acts falling within the ambit of the plunder law,” the motion said.
Further, Napoles argued that whistleblowers only said his brother Ronald John and employee de Asis merely prepared the transfer of alleged kickbacks from the ghost projects supposedly bankrolled by PDAF.
“The preparation of money and delivery of kickbacks and commissions are two different acts. The act of preparing the money solely could not amount to a commission of an offense, especially for the serious crime of plunder,” the motion pointed out.
Napoles then claimed that her co-accused de Asis was only her driver, bodyguard, messenger and all-around errand boy, and as such cannot be a co-conspirator in defrauding the government so as to be charged with plunder.
“In such capacity, it is [not even]remotely possible that he [de Asis]had conspired with anybody in the so-called PDAF scam as neither his knowledge nor position allowed him to take part in the planning, preparation of the alleged conspiracy, as he was, at the most, a lowly employee performing menial tasks,” the motion read.
“He [de Asis]simply followed the orders of the whistleblowers turned state witnesses, if only to earn a living to feed his family,” it said.
No special court
Meanwhile, senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Revilla asked the Supreme Court (SC) to deny the Ombudsman’s appeal that special courts be created to handle their cases.
Enrile, in his comment, said the Sandiganbayan must maintain its independence and must not fall into the hands of a few selecte justices.
He said the existing raffle system in assigning cases would suffice.
“Considering the highly charged and biased environment prevailing in regard of these cases, and that the request is made by the Ombudsman, the impression that may be created is that the Supreme Court has now joined the clamor for the condemnation and punishment of those involved in the so called PDAF cases, including the accused in the case,” Enrile added.
The SC has deferred its ruling on the plea of the Ombudsman.
The Sandiganbayan has also said there is no need to create a special division to try the senators and their co-accused.