SC upholds plunder raps vs Reyes, Napoles over PDAF scam

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the plunder indictment against lawyer Jessica Lucila "Gigi" Reyes and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in connection with the multi-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam. 

The SC also affirmed the indictment for plunder against Napoles' driver, John Raymund de Asis, and the graft charges filed against Napoles' children, Jo Christine and James Christopher. (READ: Why the Napoles children are co-accused in the pork barrel scam)

During its en banc session on Tuesday, March 15, the High Tribunal junked petitions seeking to nullify the Ombudsman's finding of probable cause, as well as the arrest warrant issued by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

"Wherefore, the petitions are dismissed for lack of merit. Accordingly, the assailed resolutions and orders of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan are hereby affirmed," the SC said.

In 2014, Reyes asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the Ombudsman from proceeding with her plunder case.

In her petition, the former chief of staff of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said she stands to suffer "grave and irreparable injury" if she goes through criminal proceedings.

Reyes also alleged that the Ombudsman committed grave abuse of discretion and violated her right to due process because it failed to provide her with copies of affidavits and transcripts of hearings held with pork barrel scam whistleblower Ruby Tuason.

She added that despite her repeated requests, she was never given copies of Tuason's sworn statements during the preliminary investigation of the case.

Reyes also accused the Ombudsman of "unfair and unequal enforcement of the law" by granting Tuason and other whistleblowers immunity from prosecution.

In May 2014, the Ombudsman granted Tuason immunity from criminal prosecution after she returned P40 million to the government, which corresponds to the kickbacks she allegedly received from her dealings with Napoles.

For her part, Napoles argued in her petition that she could not be charged with plunder because she is not a public officer.

Napoles is accused of controlling the fake non-governmental organizations where lawmakers' development funds were allegedly diverted.

Three senators – Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr, and Jinggoy Estrada – were charged with plunder over the scam.

The 92-year-old Enrile has been freed on bail due to humanitarian reasons, while the two others remain detained. – Rappler.com