Ombudsman blocks Napoles' bail appeal at SC

MANILA, Philippines – Prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman submitted their comment to the Supreme Court (SC), seeking to block Janet Lim Napoles' appeal to be granted bail in her plunder case with former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

In their comment to the SC en banc, state prosecutors said Napoles failed to establish a solid case that would merit the reversal of the Sandiganbayan's decision to deny her petition for bail. A copy of their comment was given to the anti-graft court and released to reporters on Monday, May 22.

The Sandiganbayan 3rd Division denied Napoles' petition for bail in the Enrile case in October 2015, prompting her to run to the High Court in 2016. It follows the same steps taken by her co-accused Enrile, who successfully petitioned the SC to overrule the Sandiganbayan and grant him the right to bail.

In Napoles' 5 plunder cases, she has been granted the right to bail in 2 and denied in 3: her cases connected to the former senators Enrile, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr, and Jinggoy Estrada. Napoles has to win 5 petitions for bail to be able to gain temporary freedom.

The SC granted Enrile's bail appeal on humanitarian grounds.

In her appeal, Napoles raised the same arguments she has repeatedly raised in her numerous motions before the courts, both the Sandiganbayan and the SC. 

They are that:

According to Ombudsman prosecutors, Napoles' grounds tackle the very meat of her plunder case, which, according to them, is not for the SC to act on.

"The Honorable Court is not a trier of facts. Moreover, a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court determines questions of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction and never questions of facts. As such, the petition must fail," prosecutors said in their comment.

Prosecutors added: "Other than the sweeping averment that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in denying her application for bail, Napoles miserably failed to establish the same."

The High Court dismissed 3 earlier petitions filed by Napoles to junk her graft and plunder charges. (READ: Where do PH judicial bodies stand in the Napoles case?)

Napoles is currently detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig after the Sandiganbayan denied her request to be detained instead at the National Bureau of Investigation Custodial Center.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he is studying the possibility of admitting Napoles into the Witness Protection Program (WPP), after it was pointed out that he doesn't have the authority to turn Napoles into a state witness.

Under the rules of court, it is the Ombudsman who can recommend to the Sandiganbayan to turn Napoles into a state witness. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has said they have no intentions of doing so.

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.