Napoles loses another bail petition at Supreme Court

MANILA, Philippines – Janet Lim Napoles lost another bail petition at the Supreme Court after the en banc denied her motion for reconsideration in her pork barrel scam plunder case with former senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

Napoles filed the motion for reconsideration in December 2017 after the en banc denied her petition in November 2017. In her motion for reconsideration, she used the main plunderer principle that got former president now Pampanga Second District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo acquitted, and former senator Jinggoy Estrada temporarily free.

The en banc did not give merit to the principle in this case.

The resolution was promulgated on February 6, written by Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr with concurrences from everyone except Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin who was on leave, and Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza, Benjamin Caguioa, and Samuel Martires who took no part.

What does this mean? It means that Napoles faces another hurdle. To gain temporary liberty, she needs to be granted bail in all her 3 plunder cases with Enrile, Estrada and former senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. Losing another petition deals a blow to her bid for freedom. (READ: PDAF cases, Duterte-time: Napoles confident of freedom 'in less than 2 years')

Napoles was granted bail in the two other plunder cases with former Masbate representative Rizalina Seachon-Lanete and former APEC representative Edgar Valdez.

Does she have other petitions? Yes. On February 13, she filed a supplemental petition for bail in relation to her plunder case with Revilla.

What is the most significant part of this resolution? It is worth noting how the en banc appreciated the "main plunderer" argument for this case.

Napoles jumped on the bandwagon, hoping to use it to her favor. She cited Arroyo's case, where the SC said there was doubt that the alleged misuse of intelligence funds in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) was really a crime of plunder because there was no main plunderer. 

In the latest resolution, the en banc said the argument was “unmeritorous” because of “the distinction between the required standards of proof” in the Arroyo and Napoles cases.

The en banc noted that Arroyo questioned the Sandiganbayan’s denial of her demurrer of evidence while Napoles is only questioning the Sandiganbayan’s denial of her petition for bail.

“This standard of proof is clearly different from that applied in a demurrer to evidence, which measures the prosecution’s entire evidence against the required moral certainty for the conviction of the accused,” the High Court said.

“The resolution of this issue does not involve an inquiry as to whether there was proof beyond reasonable doubt that Napoles, or her co-accused as the case may be, was the main plunderer for whose benefit the ill-gotten wealth was amassed or accumulated. These are masters of defense best left to the discretion of the Sandiganbayan in the resolution of the criminal case,” said the resolution. 

What’s next? Napoles can tweak her petitions, or choose to file it at a better time.

Meanwhile, the Napoles camp awaits the decision on their February 13 supplemental petition for bail in Revilla's plunder case, and also the SC’s decision on Revilla’s own petition.

Any resolution on the cases will give the Napoles camp tips on what to argue next. – Rappler.com

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 lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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