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CA junks Napoles' bid to stop indictment

MANILA, Philippines – Suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles will still be indicted for the alleged illegal detention of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy.

This, after the Court of Appeals (CA) denied her bid to stop her indictment.

Napoles assailed a resolution by the Department of Justice (DOJ) finding probable cause to file a complaint for the serious illegal detention charge against her and her brother Reynald Lim. The two have been accused of trying to detain Luy against his will starting December 2012. Luy was rescued by NBI agents in one of Napoles' Pacific Plaza Tower units on March 22, 2013.

Napoles likewise sought to revoke the warrants of arrest on her and Lim issued by the Makati RTC Branch 150 for the same crime.

In a 23-page decision dated March 26, 2014 but released Monday, March 31, the CA Special Third Division said the resolution of the DOJ Task Force on Anti-Kidnapping, which found "probable cause" for the complaint against Napoles "does not appear to have been made with grave abuse of discretion." The court also said it found sufficient the reasons for the course of action taken by the task force.

Napoles allegedly siphoned millions of pesos in lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) by using fake non-governmental organizations that served on paper as beneficiaries of the funds.

At least 38 have been charged in connection with the PDAF scam, including lawmakers who allegedly received kickbacks from the illegal transactions.

The scam was exposed by Luy, a cousin of Napoles, after his rescue. 

Let the trial judge assess

In her petition before the CA, Napoles argued that she did not order Luy's detention. Rather, Luy was at the site of detention for an alleged spiritual retreat.

The CA, however, said that Napoles' defense can be tried in court and does not revoke the DOJ's finding of probable cause.

"On the other hand, petitioner's defense that Benhur Luy voluntarily went to the Bahay ni San Jose for personal retreat and reflection after stealing from her is evidentiary in nature. It is best litigated in a full-blown trial on the merits wherein the trial judge would be able to assess and test the credibility of the prosecution witnesses vis-a-vis defense witnesses," the court said.

Earlier, in a motion for bail filed with a Makati regional trial court in September 2013, the former lawyer of Napoles, Lorna Kapunan, argued that Luy was never detainedThe defense team presented a letter that Benhur allegedly wrote on Feb 19, 2013, while on retreat in Magallanes. They also presented to the media footage showing Luy and Lim walking alongside each other on the night Luy was rescued.

The CA however said the finding of probable cause "does not require an inquiry as to whether there is sufficient evidence to secure a conviction."

"In fact, in the assailed Resolution, the Task Force painstakingly went over the pieces of evidence adduced by the parties and thereafter resolved the issues by applying the precepts of the law on evidence," read the CA decision.

The decision was penned by CA Associate Justice Ramon Garcia and concurred in by CA Associate Justices Rebecca de Guia-Salvador and Vicente S.E. Veloso. – Rappler.com