MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has denied the bids of former senator Jinggoy Estrada and Janet Lim Napoles to have their plunder cases outrightly dismissed, forcing both to present their own evidence, or else face conviction.
The Sandiganbayan 5th Division denied the demurrers to evidence of both Estrada and Napoles in relation to their pork barrel scam cases, in a resolution being served to parties on Friday, June 14, excerpts of which were seen by media.
“Based on the evidence on record, this court is convinced that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence both testimonial and documentary which established each element of the crime of plunder against the accused,” said the 5th Division’s resolution.
The resolution added, “This, if unrebutted by contrary evidence, is sufficient to support a conviction for the crimes charged.”
It was signed by all 3 5th Division justices: chairperson Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, and Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann Corpus-Mañalac.
That Estrada was able to file the demurrer to evidence was a significant victory him. A demurrer to evidence is a pleading that asks for a dismissal of the case without having to go to presentation of defense; a pleading so crucial it needs the permission or leave of the court to be filed.
If the demurrer was granted, Estrada and Napoles would have been outrightly acquitted of plunder over the supposed P183-million pork barrel scam.
For context, Bong Revilla’s motion for leave to file a demurrer was denied twice. But he was eventually acquitted by a special division in a vote of 3-2.
It was also a special division of 5 justices that granted, 3-2, the bail appeal of Estrada. That decision was anchored on the Supreme Court-introduced "main plunderer doctrine," which says that there cannot be a crime of plunder if there is no main plunderer.
“Ultimately, the prosecution was able to establish that Napoles and Estrada agreed to funnel the PDAF allocation of Estrada through the bogus NGOs MAMFI and SDPFFI of Napoles, for a percentage commission ranging from 40 to 60% of the PDAF, in exchange for kickbacks and commissions, to be divided among themselves,” said the resolution.
The 5th Division also added that “there is sufficient evidence to establish” that “the commissions of Estrada from all the transactions with Napoles’ NGOs were paid through his representatives who personally came to the JLN Office, where cash payments were being made and corresponding vouchers were signed as proof of payment.”
The prosecution is in possession of an explosive Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report that shows, among others: