No conspiracy to enrich solons, Napoles tells court

MANILA, Philippines – Alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles has told the Sandiganbayan, the Philippine anti-graft court, that she cannot be charged with plunder because she did not engage in any "conspiracy" to enrich lawmakers.

On Monday afternoon, June 16, Napoles filed separate 35-page motions before the Sandiganbayan's 1st, 3rd, and 5th divisions, the courts that are also hearing the plunder charges against 3 senators who allegedly got kickbacks when they channeled their discretionary funds to Napoles' bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

In her motion for judicial determination of probable cause, she alleged that state investigators erred in approving her indictment for plunder. 

"The Ombudsman failed to establish that the fund representing the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) proceeds or disbursement, which was allegedly deposited in the NGOs' account, landed in the pockets of any public officer," her motion read.

Like her children, Napoles argued that the Ombudsman "conveniently used the word conspiracy, even when there is no proof." (READ: Napoles children slam 'polluted' state witnesses)

Long assumed to be the mastermind of the illegal diversion of lawmakers' funds, Napoles is a co-accused in all sets of PDAF scam cases before the Sandiganbayan involving opposition senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr, and Jinggoy Estrada. 

They are all facing plunder and graft charges filed by the Ombudsman.

Why 'conspiracy' is important

The Sandiganbayan deals exclusively with corruption cases against government officials and employees. (READ: Get to know anti-graft court Sandiganbayan)

In her motion before the court, Napoles argued that for a private individual like herself to be charged with plunder, conspiracy to defraud the government should be present.

In her case, she said, there was no sufficient evidence of this.

She cited a court ruling that deemed an allegation of conspiracy without proof to be "careless," as it can "sweep into jail even innocent persons who may have (only) been made unwitting tools by the criminal minds really responsible for the irregularity."

Not a public official, no plunder

Even if there was conspiracy, Napoles argued for argument's sake that the "common purpose or goal" in her actions was not to amass wealth for lawmakers but for herself.

This, she said, would also not constitute plunder. 

"In a Plunder, the pattern of overt or criminal acts must be directed towards a common goal which is to enable the public officer to amass, accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth," her motion read.

"Jurisprudential doctrine" supposes that conspiracy in a plunder case must be geared towards enriching public officers and not a private individual, argued Napoles' lawyers. 

They added that there is no plunder if Napoles, a private individual, was the one who "principally and ultimately benefited."

The lawyers, however, clarified that they were only stressing the elements of plunder "for the sole purpose of determining whether the charges in the Information" filed by the Ombudsman constitute plunder.

They said Napoles was not admitting to the existence of conspiracy to begin with.

Napoles also requested the court to defer the issuance of an arrest warrant and to suspend the proceedings against her. – Rappler.com