Palace defends SolGen over move to acquit Napoles

MALACAÑANG defended Thursday Solicitor General Jose Calida's move to acquit Janet Napoles, the so-called "pork barrel queen", for the crime of serious illegal detention of her former aide.

"He's (Calida) not lawyering for Napoles; I think he’s just simply trying to correct what you think, what you see, what you perceive. [That] is something that needs to be rectified," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press conference.

Abella's statement came after the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported that the new crew at the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed with the Court of Appeals a manifestation in lieu of rejoinder recommending the acquittal of Napoles for the crime of serious illegal detention of her second cousin, whistle blower Benhur Luy.

The manifestation cited evidence that Luy, a former aide of Napoles and whistleblower in the pork barrel scam, was not left unrestrained in a retreat house and had even “comforted himself as a free man inside.”

Napoles was sentenced to up to 40 years in jail for forcibly detaining Luy in two locations from December 2012 to March 2013.

On Wednesday, Calida said that the OSG's manifestation is only his legal opinion and that it is still the CA justices who could give the final decision on Napoles' case.

Napoles is the alleged mastermind in a scheme where she and lawmakers got kickbacks from the Priority Development Assistance Fund, also known as pork barrel, by funneling it through bogus non-governmental organizations.

Abella, however, said the OSG's manifestation would not affect the plunder cases against Napoles.

"In the sense, [the manifestation is response] not on the plunder cases but on the charges that she was detaining Mr. Luy illegally, for serious detention. So basically, those are two separate items and that is his call, the Solicitor General’s call," Abella said.

"From the SolGen’s point of view, the two [illegal detention and plunder cases] may be intertwined but they’re not connected, they’re not inseparable," he added.

On Wednesday, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo also backed Calida's position and expressed confidence that the latter thoroughly studied the illegal detention case of Napoles.

'Suspicious'

Senator Leila de Lima saw something suspicious on the OSG's recommendation to acquit Napoles for the case she was convicted for up to 40 years.

"It looks like this administration is bent on taking the side of every high profile crook and scoundrel the past administration was able to jail. I cannot imagine what justification the OSG has come up with this time in order to sabotage the criminal conviction the Department of Justice has successfully secured in the past administration," de Lima said.

De Lima said it is the lowest point ever that the OSG has reached in its years of existence.

The senator who was a former Justice Secretary during the Aquino administration said it was disappointing to note that criminals like Napoles who allegedly took advantage of the Filipino taxpayer's money will be released.

"Release Napoles, the number one enabler of plunderers in government, and we might as well dissolve our justice system and declare this government a government of criminals, where the innocent are imprisoned and the criminals liberated. Maybe next they will be setting free the convicted drug lords who testified against me," De Lima said.

Earlier, de Lima disclosed, that information reached her office that she will be arrested anytime soon because of the allegations linking her to the proliferation of drugs inside the National Bilibid Prison and for allegedly using the dirty money to fund her campaign in the last May 2016 elections. (SunStar Philippines)


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