Sandiganbayan junks Ombudsman’s bid to amend ‘pork scam’ information

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Sandiganbayan junks Ombudsman’s bid to amend ‘pork scam’ information
The amendments involve 'substantial changes' that may allow alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles to be discharged as state witness, says a lawyer for one of the accused

MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan is set to junk the move of the Ombudsman prosecutors to amend the plunder information they had filed against Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.

“We will deny motion to amend information insofar as the substantial amendments are concerned,” said Justice Efren N. dela Cruz, who chairs the court’s First Division. While the court has decided on the denial of the motion, the resolution is yet to be signed.

The division heard on Thursday morning, June 26, the various motions filed by Revilla and his co-accused.

Watch this report below.

 

Lawyers for the accused vehemently argued against, and successfully assailed, the amended information.

Revilla’s lawyer Joel Bodegon said the amendments involved “substantial changes,” as it may potentially allow alleged scam mastermind Janet Napoles to be discharged as a state witness.

The amended information took out the phrase where Napoles was said to have been enabled to misappropriate government funds for her personal gain. The new phrasing now reflects that it was the senators who amassed and acquired ill-gotten wealth.

It also replaced the word “conspired with” to “collaborated with,” in indicating the participation of Revilla’s co-accused.

Bodegon argued that this essentially downgrades the case of Napoles to mere graft.

Napoles faces both plunder and graft cases. Plunder, however, is a non-bailable offense punishable by reclusion perpetua.

Bodegon added that the bid to amend the original information is a judicial admission that the first information was void.

Thus, he said, the warrant of arrest against his client must also be voided.

Napoles arguments

Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David said the new information was tailored-fit to their earlier objection.

David earlier argued that there is no plunder if his client, a private individual, was the one who ultimately and principally benefited from the alleged scam. (Read: No conspiracy to enrich solons, Napoles tells court)

Plunder, he said, is a conspiracy geared towards enriching a public official and not a private individual.

He also added that the court resolve to disallow the prosecution to file any further amendments. He said the Napoles camp will be filing a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court, and the prosecution might further amend the information based on arguments raised in the impending petition.

Justice Dela Cruz did not indicate whether the resolution to be penned will also cover David’s request. 

Cambe’s, prosecution’s arguments

Cambe’s lawyer, Mike Ancheta, argued that the Ombudsman’s move to amend the information validates their position that his client was at most, merely an accomplice in the crime of plunder.

The court denied the Ombudsman’s motion, after it sought for the oral arguments of both the prosecution and defense lawyers.

The prosecution said they are confident the original information was sufficient but had to make amendments to eliminate vagueness.

As if clinching the debate to their side, David then said admitting the amendments would put the court in a bad light. He said it would mean the court determined probable cause against Revilla based on a vague information. 

After Dela Cruz indicated that they will deny the motion of the prosecutors, David simply replied: “Thank you, Your Honor.” – Rappler.com

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