After CA acquittal: What’s next for Janet Napoles?

Lian Buan

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After CA acquittal: What’s next for Janet Napoles?
The Napoles camp intends to file a new petition for bail. They have also set a meeting with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.

MANILA, Philippines – First off, she wants a jail transfer.

Janet Lim Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David said on Wednesday, May 10, they have requested a transfer of the businesswoman from the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) in Mandaluyong to the custodial center of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Manila.

This follows her acquittal by the Court of Appeals (CA) which reversed the earlier conviction of Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 150.

“Hindi siya dapat doon sa correctional, para sa mga convicted prisoner ‘yun. Ang request ko sa NBI kasi unang-una meron kasing may sinabi si DOJ [Department of Justice] na open siya sa exploratory [talks], kung gano’n open din kami,” David told reporters.

(She shouldn’t be at the correctional, that’s only for convicted prisoners. My request is to have her transferred to the NBI because the DOJ said something about being open to exploratory talks so we’re open to that too.)

David also said he had sent a letter to the DOJ. Based on the rules of court, however, it will be the Sandiganbayan that will issue a commitment order should they grant this request.

What next?

Their next move: freedom. 

David said they intend to file a new petition for bail which will be anchored now on Napoles’ acquittal in the serious illegal detention case before the CA.

“Ang i-explore, petition for bail on the basis of unreliable statement of Benhur [Luy] na na-discover natin sa illegal detention,” David said. (What we are exploring is a petition for bail on the basis of unreliable statements of Benhur Luy that we discovered in the illegal detention case.)

Solicitor General Jose Calida and even Malacañang have insisted that the serious illegal detention case should have no effect on the pork barrel cases. Calida had manifested before the CA that Napoles should be acquitted in the serious illegal detention case involving Luy, who previously worked for Napoles.  (READ: Calida on Napoles acquittal: ‘Justice prevailed’)

Napoles and her brother Reynald “Jojo” Lim were accused of detaining Luy from December 2012 to March 2013 after the two discovered Luy was dipping his hands into the same business as Napoles – tapping into lawmakers’ pork barrel funds through fake non-governmental organizations. (READ: Napoles to Benhur: You stole my PDAF)

Luy eventually turned principal state witness in the plunder complaint filed against Napoles and several other lawmakers.

It now appears that Napoles’ acquittal will be used by her camp, at least in their new petition for bail. They will likely harp on the credibility of Luy as a witness.

David did not clarify whether they will refile a new petition at the Sandiganbayan or will take it to the Supreme Court (SC).

Napoles was granted bail in her plunder cases connected to the pork barrel scam involving former APEC party list representative Edgar Valdez and former Masbate Representative Rizalina Lanete. Her petitions for bail in connection with the cases of former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and Jinggoy Estrada were all denied.

The bail petitions of the former senators were also all denied by the Sandiganbayan, but the SC granted Enrile’s petition for humanitarian reasons.

State witness or not?

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II also said on Wednesday that a meeting between him and Napoles’ lawyers has been set, either on the same day or on Thursday, May 11.

Aguirre earlier said Napoles can be considered a state witness, but Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella contradicted this, saying that President Rodrigo Duterte does not intend to make her one. (READ: SolGen Calida: There’s no deal with Napoles)

“I did not say that she will definitely be a state witness. I said we are going to study it, because in cases of state witnesses, it must appear that you’re not the most guilty. You should not be the most guilty, not the least guilty,” Aguirre said in a press conference on Wednesday.

David said they are also looking into the option of offering a plea bargain agreement.

Napoles was at the Sandiganbayan on Wednesday supposedly to attend her hearing for her graft charges with Valdez. She was, however, allowed to stay inside the vehicle of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) where court staff delivered to her the pre-trial order that she needed to sign. (READ: Duterte’s links to Janet Lim Napoles’ lawyers)

“Mas matindi ngayon ang threat kasi ‘di natin alam sino talaga puwede madaanan,” David said. (The threats are graver now because we don’t know who we are crossing paths with.) 

Changes in Napoles’ demeanor were noticeable on Wednesday. For one, she was no longer in her orange prison uniform but was instead wearing a regular polo shirt and pants with a bright smile throughout.

“Panahon pa ng dating administrasyon sinabi niya na lahat, kaya lang ayaw pakinggan dahil may mga alyado sila na tinamaan kaya polluted source daw si Napoles. Pero ngayon fair ang administrasyon, gusto nila malaman ano ang nangyari sa PDAF,” David said.

(She had been willing to tell all even during the past administration, but they didn’t want to listen to her because their allies were involved, that’s why they said Napoles was a polluted source. The new administration is fair, they want to know what happened.) –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.