Calida on Napoles acquittal: 'Justice prevailed'
MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida welcomed the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) to acquit alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in her serious illegal detention case.
The CA 12th Division had reversed the 2015 conviction of Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 150, which found Napoles guilty of holding former employee Benhur Luy against his will.
Last January, Calida had submitted a manifestation to the CA recommending Napoles' acquittal.
In a statement sent to media on Monday, May 8, the Solicitor General said "justice prevailed."
"The decision of the Court of Appeals encapsulates the Latin maxim fiat justitia ruat caelum. Let justice be done though the heavens fall," Calida said. "I commend the magistrates of the 12th Division of the Court of Appeals for doing what is right based on the evidence before them."
In his manifestation, Calida had cited the same arguments that the Napoles camp raised during the trial, taking the position that Luy's behavior showed he had not been detained.
"The evidence in the Napoles case did not sustain the conviction of the trial court. The essential element of deprivation of liberty was absent and wanting in this case," Calida reiterated on Monday.
"As Solicitor General, I share in the task and responsibility of dispensing justice. I am a servant of the law, the two-fold aim of which is that the guilty shall not escape or the innocent suffer." (READ: FACT CHECK: Where should the Solicitor General stand in Napoles' case?)
No effect on pork cases?
Napoles' lawyer previously said the Solicitor General's manifestation would have a positive effect on his client's separate cases stemming from the pork barrel scam, since Luy's credibility as a witness would be "diminished."
But on Monday, Calida maintained that Napoles' acquittal in her serious illegal detention case would have no bearing on her pork barrel scam cases.
"Some sectors make a big deal out of this case because it involves Janet Lim Napoles. However, as the principal lawyer of the Republic, this is just a simple criminal case wherein the evidence does not support the conviction of the accused," the Solicitor General added.
In a separate statement on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella echoed Calida's view, saying that the acquittal "has no direct impact" on the pork barrel scam cases.
Abella also denied that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte struck a deal with Napoles.
"Government is clear that there is no policy shift on how we deal with Napoles. Neither there is an agreement forged between the Duterte administration and Napoles," he said.
"President Duterte has repeatedly asserted the independence of the 3 branches of government. He has vowed not to interfere with the decisions of the judiciary or legislature, and assures the people that he will respect and not influence the results of their decision. The tri-partite separation of powers will be strictly observed under this administration."
Duterte himself expressed support for Calida's bid to have Napoles acquitted, saying Luy "was not restrained at all." – Rappler.com