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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Seares: Napoles acquittal and pork barrel cases

TO those who don’t bother with how the law works, what’s clearly disturbing is why a government that did the hard work of building evidence against Janet Napoles and succeeded in convicting her in the trial court asked the appellate court to acquit her. Was new evidence found to refute finding of the trial court?

Solicitor General Jose Calida, whose office filed last Jan. 11 with Court of Appeals the document (“manifestation in lieu of rejoinder”), said the evidence was not enough to convict Napoles. He agreed with Napoles’s motion that the “essential element of deprivation

Of liberty in the crime was not proved.

Benhur Luy, Napoles’s cousin who alleged he was detained in a retreat house and in her home from December 2012 to March 2013, could’ve left the places of “detention” had he wanted to, the Napoles motion argued. And the sol-gen agreed.

Trial court

Many people hink they know enough law to believe that the trial court would be the better judge of that. The lower court heard the testimony and questioning of witnesses and viewed other evidence up close. Is there compelling evidence the C.A. found that that could change the finding of guilty? Or did the C.A. just rely on the sol-gen’s word without the rigorous scrutiny done by the trial court?

The sol-gen in effect told the C.A. the prosecutors had weak evidence and the trial judge who saw, heard and appreciated the evidence, was wrong. According to a Feb. 15 news report of Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), sources in the ombudsman, Supreme Court, and office of the executive secretary said the sol-gens move was “alarming” and “dangerous.”

Impact on cases

In cases where the “People of the Philippines” are the complainants, the sol-gen usually goes to the other side (the appellant, i.e., the states opponent) only in minor cases.

While Napoles is acquitted of the charge of serious illegal detention (which would’ve put her away for 40 years), sources told PCIJ it could have impact on the other charges against her and legislators accused of stealing billions of pesos in public funds through the PDAF pork barrel. If star witness Benhur Luy wasn’t credible in one major case against Napoles, could he be believed in the other state charges?

A suspicion, which until proven is just a conspiracy theory, is that the Duterte government has made a deal on the Napoles heist: use her to nail to the door certain personalities the president believes are getting away with plunder.

Napoles innocent?

Like other theories that political watchers see and speculate on, one must wait for other pieces to fall, and see if they fit. If it’s any comfort, Malacaang has belied any shift on policy about Napoless alleged crimes.

Must the “mother of all scams of all time” get less punishment than she’d deserve or even walk just to snag some people whom state leaders want to jail?

And there’s another “conspiracy theory,” parts of which a public official already hinted about: Napoles wasn’t the brains in the fraud of the decade.
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