Anti-graft court upholds indictment of Napoles' children
MANILA, Philippines – After an initial split in the votes of the Sandiganbayan Third Division justices, the prosecution eventually claimed victory in the approved indictment of the children of alleged big-time swindler Janet Lim Napoles.
In a resolution dated Monday, September 29, the court upheld the graft charges filed by the Ombudsman against Jo Christine and James Christopher Napoles.
Five justices voted in favor of the indictment. Anti-graft court Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang with justices Samuel Martires, Alex Quiroz, Jose Hernandez, and Maria Cristina Cornejo found probable cause against the two Napoles children after further deliberations.
Hernandez and Cornejo were included in the vote following the split in the 3rd division, composed of Tang, Martires, and Quiroz. A division of 5 was convened based on internal rules of the court.
Martires earlier voted that additional evidence should be presented in the cases of Jo Christine, James Christopher, and 6 others, prompting the court to defer the issuance of arrest warrants against them.
The two posted bail of P450,000 each more than two months ago, ahead of their arrest warrants.
Napoles' lead counsel Stephen David argued that when the court refused to dismiss the case outright based on insufficient evidence in the graft charges, it was acting both as prosecutor and judge.
The Napoles siblings face 15 counts of graft while their mother faces plunder and 42 counts of graft over the alleged diversion of lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to ghost projects of dummy non-profit foundations.
Known as the pork barrel queen, Janet Napoles allegedly controlled the NGOs that unlawfully received PDAF without implementing the projects supposed to benefit poor rural communities.
More evidence needed vs one accused
While Martires initially voted for the dismissal of the graft case against Margarita Guadinez, the 5 justices eventually voted for her indictment.
Along with Guadinez and the Napoles siblings, the following accused will be arraigned on October 13:
- Aileen Palama
- Ampara Fernando
- Jesus Castillo
- Dorilyn Fabian
- Renato Ornopia
- Laarni Uy
- Rodrigo Galang
- Hernandi Ditchon
The cases of Uy, Galang, and Ditchon were remanded to the Ombudsman on July 21 for yet another probe. After receiving the Ombudsman's compliance in their cases, the court also approved their indictment.
Additional evidence was, however, ordered produced in the case of Fernando Ramirez. No reason was cited by the court in its resolution.
In Cornejo's separate and concurring opinion, Ramirez is said to be "simply a driver."
"Per records of the case, he has no signature appearing in the documents relative to the operations/transactions of JLN [Corporation]," her opinion read, explaining the need for more evidence.
Gigi Reyes' request denied
Meanwhile, the Sandiganbayan Third Division denied the request of accused lawyer Jessica Lucila "Gigi" Reyes to be allowed to use a laptop with printer and to access the Internet while detained at the Taguig City Jail.
The court said the prohibition by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, which supervises the facility where Reyes is detained, on the use of electronic gadgets "is a reasonable measure for the detainees' safety and to prevent their escape from prison." – Rappler.com