From left to right, Stephen David, Lanee Cui-David, Bruce Rivera
It's not yet clear if President Rodrigo Duterte had a hand in the Office of the Solicitor General's move to recommend the acquittal of Janet Lim Napoles in the case of serious illegal detention.
What is certain, for now, are his ties to the alleged pork barrel queen's lawyers.
Lawyers Lanee Cui-David and husband Stephen David, and Bruce Rivera – all staunch Duterte supporters – also graduated from the President's beloved alma mater, the San Beda College of law.
The Davids founded the David, Cui-David, Buenaventura and Ang Offices, the law firm tapped by Napoles to defend her in pork barrel cases at the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan in 2014. (READ: Who are the lawyers of Janet Lim Napoles?)
In July 2016, Duterte appointed Cui-David as a deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Her husband, Stephen, has been seen at Palace events.
Cui-David has not responded to Rappler's request for comment.
The President values his ties with fellow Bedans, frequently attending their events and appointing quite a number of them to government positions.
Two former San Bedans, in fact his fraternity brothers, were appointed to the Bureau of Immigration, only to be fired by Duterte for their alleged involvement in a corruption scandal at the bureau.
Photo from a Rappler source
Before taking on the Napoles case, Stephen said in 2014 that their law firm studied carefully the serious illegal detention case that the embattled businesswoman was facing.
Stephen was convinced that “there is another version" of the case that deserved to be told, one that might show how Napoles was the victim of the system. “The entire picture will be revealed at the proper time,” he told Rappler then. (READ: 'Madame Jenny' Napoles: Woman in the eye of the storm)
The OSG asserted in its manifestation that Luy was not detained against his free will, as Luy had claimed. The manifestation thus sheds doubt on the credibility of Luy, who turned state witness to testify against Napoles in the pork barrel case. (READ: SolGen parrots Napoles arguments in case)
Stephen said back in 2014 that he doubted the credibility of Luy.
Rivera, another Napoles lawyer, is also a fierce Duterte supporter – offline and online.
He has defended the President on social media on a number of issues, including extrajudicial killings, media killings, and his controversial "rape" remarks during the presidential campaign.
Rivera quickly responded to allegations that he influenced Duterte to back moves for Napoles' acquittal.
"To cry and lament on the pork barrel cases, come out with a theory that I influenced the President to release Napoles, is not only annoying to me but is clearly out to destroy the President using me as the tool," he said in his Facebook account.
Rivera said he has not spoken in person with the President. But he maintained that as Napoles' lawyer, he believes she did not detain Benhur Luy.
Malacañang said on Thursday, February 16, dismissed as "speculations" that the Napoles lawyers used their clout with Duterte to initiate the Office of the Solicitor-General's move to recommend Napoles' acquittal.
"I think that’s what exactly they are: speculations," said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.