PH unlikely to extradite Napoles while cases still pending
MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Monday, August 6, that it is "quite unlikely" that the Philippines will extradite Janet Lim Napoles to the United States (US) while corruption cases are still pending before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
"We'll have to evaluate that but quite unlikely, because the Sandiganbayan has already acquired jurisdiction over her person, so that is something that we have to deal with – the fact that she’s already under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan," Guevarra told Rappler on Monday in a chance interview after the Department of Justice (DOJ) budget hearing at the House of Representatives.
What's the issue? The US expressed interest in having Napoles, her 3 children, and two others extradited after the US Attorney's Office indicted them for domestic and international money laundering, as well as conspiracy for multi-year bribery and fraud.
The US Attorney’s Office in California found that Napoles' earnings from the pork barrel scam were transferred to California accounts to buy real estate and business shares there.
But Napoles, and children Jo Christine and James Christopher, have pending cases at the Sandiganbayan related to the pork barrel scam and the Malampaya fund scam.
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje Tang said that according to rules, extradition is not possible if there are cases still pending. Guevarra earlier said an extradition while the cases are pending is an option.
"That is just an option available under the RP-US extradition treaty, just an option. I'm not saying we're going to do it, it looks more likely that we have to terminate first the Sandiganbayan cases. Because it's already ongoing, it's already on the trial stage," Guevarra said.
Can the Philippines extradite Napoles early? Guevarra said that if the Philippines decides to really extradite Napoles ahead of termination of cases, they will file a petition with a "competent Philippine court", meaning the Sandiganbayan.
But Guevarra said that the Philippines will likely stay put on the cases.
"Chances are [we'll wait for the termination of the cases], rather than surrendering her in the meantime. I do not want to preempt any decision but in all likelihood, it will be something like that, let’s wait for the resolution of the Sandiganbayan," Guevarra said.
Earlier, former DOJ undersecretarty Jose Justiniano warned against extraditing Napoles ahead of the termination of cases, saying there are risks of the country giving away its jurisdiction over her.
"No, I doubt it very much, it’s really more of what is our priority, unahin muna natin 'yung nandito o ipahiram natin siya para sa kaso nila (should we focus on the cases here, or lend her to the US for their case)? I guess the answer there is pretty obvious," Guevarra said.
Which Napoles has pending cases? Janet has 5 counts of plunder pending before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, and dozens of graft and malversation cases related to the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.
Jo Christine and James Christopher have a hundred counts each of graft and malversation before the Sandiganbayan over their connection to the P900-million Malampaya fund scam.
The youngest, Jeane Catherine, has been cleared of tax evasion by the Court of Tax Appeals. She has a pending petition for review at the tax court questioning the civil liabilities that arose from the tax case.
Jeane's lawyer Ian Encarnacion said Jeane no longer needs to seek permission from the court to travel, but an alert order for her remains. They will request that it be lifted.
Jeane's one-week travel to Indonesia on July 27 alerted the Bureau of Immigration, but Encarnacion said she returned August 3 and will face any legal issue here. – Rappler.com