Duterte backs SolGen's bid for Napoles acquittal in detention case

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, February 27, said he supports the recommendation of the government's top lawyer to acquit alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in her serious illegal detention case.

But Duterte hesitated to comment on the alleged involvement of Napoles in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam, which is the subject of separate cases filed against her.

Back in January, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a manifestation with the Court of Appeals to recommend Napoles' acquittal in the case filed against her by whistleblower Benhur Luy, her cousin and former employee.

Court documents obtained by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) showed that Calida said the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 150 errred when it sentenced Napoles to at least 30 years in jail.

"I think he is right. I agree because your job even if you are the prosecutor... I have done that several times when I was a prosecutor. I myself would move for the dismissal [of] the case, especially one that is fabricated, [with] planted evidence," Duterte told reporters on Monday.

The President also deflected questions about his close links to Napoles' lawyers. He instead went on to discuss how he shared Calida's legal opinion.

"The circumstances would show it. He (Luy) was not restrained at all. If you follow the story of the Solicitor General, he's right. He could get in and out. Ilang beses nag-bisita iyong media sa kanya. Hindi naman siya pumiyok (He got visits from the media several times. He did not squeal)," Duterte said.

"Para sa akin talaga, kung ako, idi-dismiss ko rin talaga (If it were up to me, I will also dismiss it). I will move for the dismissal of the case, because it is not our job to persecute – it is your job to prosecute rightly. Simple ano lang iyan (It's really simple), simple justice."

Calida earlier denied the Duterte administration is striking a deal with Napoles.

"What deal are you talking about? We are talking about the rule of law here. There's no deal as far as I'm concerned because my interest is to see to it that justice is done," the Solicitor General had said.

Several senators questioned Calida's move, with Duterte's fiercest critic Senator Leila de Lima calling it "questionable" and "suspicious." (READ: Senators to SolGen: Why spend taxpayers' money to acquit a criminal?– Rappler.com