MANILA, Philippines – Alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles filed a reply before the Supreme Court (SC) which sets in motion her petition to be granted bail in a plunder case connected to former senator Juan Ponce Enrile.
Napoles filed the reply before the SC on July 6, a copy of which was released to media on Tuesday, July 11. This is consistent with the pronouncement of her lawyer Dennis Buenaventura who told Rappler they will be moving for bail again, confident that her acquittal of serious illegal detention before the Court of Appeals (CA) would help her case.
The petition for certiorari with a prayer for bail was filed before the High Court in relation to Enrile's priority development assistance fund or PDAF. It asks the SC to junk her plunder case and set her free.
Napoles, however, has 5 plunder charges. She's been granted bail in 2 cases, so she would need to be granted bail 3 times more to attain temporary freedom.
The Enrile case is interesting because it was also the SC that eventually granted the former senator bail. Anti-graft court Sandiganbayan earlier denied Enrile's petition and also denied the same in the cases of detained former senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada.
Revilla and Estrada's plunder charges are already on trial, while Enrile's case remains at the pre-trial stage.
In the petition, Napoles' camp repeated their argument since the start of the proceedings: that evidence is weak against the businesswoman.
"The prosecutions' evidence is built on the questionable credibility of whistleblowers which if exposed to analysis shows inconsistencies manifesting the lies on which they are built," Napoles' reply reads.
Buenaventura told Rappler in an earlier interview that the credibility of Benhur Luy is now in question following Napoles' acquittal by the CA. They hope to use this acquittal to convince the courts that the government's star witness is a liar. (READ: Ball starts rolling at last for PDAF scam plunder trials)
Another state witness is Ruby Tuason, the socialite who confessed to having been the bagman between Napoles and the senators. For Enrile, Tuason said she delivered kickbacks to Enrile's former chief-of-staff – herself facing a plunder charge – lawyer Gigi Reyes.
Based on case records, Tuason said she did not personally count the 'bribe money' she delivered.
Buenaventura, in the interview with Rappler, shrugged of Tuason as the possible smoking gun against Napoles.
Tuason is who they hit in their reply to the SC: "If Ms. Tuason did not count the money that she delivered to Atty Gigi Reyes, wouldn't her testimony with regar to the amount of money that she supposedly delivered be considered hearsay evidence."
After the hearsay argument, they invoked technicality, which is a legal maneuver widely used in the pork scam proceedings so far. Plunder has the treshold amount of P50 million, if it's lesser, it's not plunder.
So Napoles argues: "Not only that, wouldn't the argument of the prosecution that they have established that the petitioner allegedly helped accused Senator Enrile and Atty Reyes amass, accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth in the amount of at least P50 million fall into pieces as the amount of money pilfered cannot be exactly determined?"
No transaction with Enrile
Napoles asserts in her reply that her NGOs were never involved with the projects supposedly funded by Enrile's PDAF.
"The fact of the matter is that the petitioner is not an incorporator, trustee or officer of any of the 6 NGOs involved in the PDAF-funded projects of Senator Enrile," the reply reads.
The reply adds: "None of the witnesses testified they were privy to or have personal knowledge about the supposed agreement which petitioner, senator Enrile and Atty Reyes may have in the alleged scheme to cary out the purported PDAF scam."
Their appeal to the High Court: "It is clear that the 3rd Division of the Sandiganbayan has acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess jurisdiction in holding that the evidence of guilt of petitioner for the crime of plunder is strong."
If their petitions for bail go nowhere, Buenaventura said they would be forced to wait until the prosecution is done presenting their evidence after which they will file a demurrer which, if granted, would dismiss the entire charge against Napoles.
Prosecutors maintain they have a strong case, but Napoles' camp is confident, now more than ever.
"Compare it to our situation before, we're much better now," Buenaventura told Rappler.
He added: Confident siya, very confident, especially dito. Ang ano lang is the time." (She's confident, very confident, especially about this one. It's just a question of time.) – Rappler.com