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SolGen's recommendation on Napoles 'suspicious' – De Lima

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima slammed Solicitor General Jose Calida's recommendation that the court acquit alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in her serious illegal detention case.

De Lima, former justice secretary who launched a probe into the case, expressed skepticism over Calida's move.

"It is questionable. I find it suspicious," De Lima told reporters on Wednesday, February 15.

"It looks like this administration is bent on taking the side of every high-profile crook and scoundrel the past administration was able to jail. I cannot imagine what justification the OSG has come up with this time in order to sabotage the criminal conviction the DOJ has successfully secured in the past administration," she also said in a separate statement.

The former justice chief added that it is rare for the state to side with someone who has been convicted.

After all, De Lima said, the case was handled well, leading to Napoles' imprisonment. In 2015, a Makati court sentenced Napoles to life imprisonment for illegally detaining her longtime aide-turned-whistleblower Benhur Luy.

"So pambihira 'yan mangyari na 'yung estado would now move to acquit, would now share the position of the convicted accused. Ano na naman po ba ito? Ano'ng pinanggagalingan na naman ng SolGen?" De Lima said.

(It's rare that the state would move to acquit, would now share the position of the convicted accused. What is this again? Where is the SolGen coming from?)

Napoles is also facing plunder charges in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam. She was granted bail in April 2016 but could not leave prison at the time due to the serious illegal detention case.

'Tribune of convicted criminals'

De Lima could not hide her disappointment and called the OSG a "tribune of convicted criminals."

"From the 'tribune of the people' to the 'tribune of convicted criminals,' this is probably the lowest point ever that the OSG has reached in its years of existence.
The professional career lawyers of the OSG must be cringing at this latest stunt of their Solicitor General," the senator said in her statement.

"Ano po bang klaseng tribune of the people ang SolGen na gano'n na napakabilis niyang magturo sa akin na public enemy number one [pero] ngayon papakawalan niya 'yung isang personalidad na nasa sentro ng usapin ng PDAF scam?" she said.

(What kind of tribune of the people is the SolGen, who easily points to me as public enemy number one but now wants to free one personality who is at the center of the PDAF scam?)

In a press conference on Wednesday, Calida said he is convinced, after reviewing the case, that the court erred in its decision against Napoles.

"We cannot be blind to injustice. In this case, injustice was done to Janet Napoles," the Solicitor General said.

"We are talking about the rule of law here. There is no deal [with Napoles] as far as I'm concerned because my interest is to see to it that justice is done," he added.

Calida also distanced President Rodrigo Duterte from the issue, saying the chief executive "does not instruct" his Cabinet on what to do. (READ: Soft on Napoles? Duterte gov't just upholding 'rule of law')

Duterte earlier linked De Lima to Napoles, which the senator vehemently denied.

De Lima, anticipating she would soon be accused of involvement in the pork barrel scam, said: "I handled the investigation, I oversaw the filing of cases by the NBI. Gano'n din sa Bilibid. Gano'n din, ako nakadiskubre ng kalokohan do'n, tapos binabaliktad nila. Ano, gagawin na naman nila akong PDAF queen?"

(I handled the investigation, I oversaw the filing of cases by the NBI. Same in the Bilibid case. It's the same, I was also the one who discovered irregularities there, but they accused me of involvement in the illegal practices at the penitentiary. What will they do now – label me as the PDAF queen?) – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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