SC affirms Sandigan’s decision to allow Napoles, ex-Masbate lawmaker to post bail

MANILA. Former businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
MANILA. Former businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.File photo

THE Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the decision of a Sandiganbayan anti-graft court allowing former Masbate third district representative Rizalina Seachon-Lanete and businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles to post bail in the plunder charges filed against them over the alleged misuse of the lawmaker’s Priority Development Assistance (PDAF) or pork barrel.

In a resolution promulgated on October 11, 2023, the SC denied the Petition for Certiorari filed by the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) of the Office of the Ombudsman seeking the reversal of the ruling of the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division on April 12, 2026 and February 13, 2017 that granted the applications for bail of the two accused.

The court upheld that the anti-graft court did not commit any grave abuse of discretion in issuing its resolution, noting that the OSP failed to present evidence to establish that the threshold of P50 million for cases of plunder was reached.

“Failure to reach the said amount is fatal because it is a crucial element in the crime of plunder. Any proof that there was an accumulation of ill-gotten wealth, but in an amount less than P50,000,000, means that the accused committed a crime other than the crime of Plunder,” the resolution stated.

“Verily, the Court concludes that the OSP failed to prove that there exists evident guilt or a great presumption of guilt that would warrant the denial of Napoles and Lanete's right to bail. As such, the Court finds that the Sandiganbayan did not commit any grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in issuing the assailed Resolutions. The grant of Napoles and Lanete's applications for bail stands,” it added.

The SC said the OSP was also not able to provide proof of any personal dealings between Napoles and Lanete, as well as evidence that the two met to discuss the PDAF scheme to which the lawmaker would receive kickbacks from the alleged pork barrel queen.

The court noted, however, that its ruling is only limited to the existence of grave abuse of discretion in relation to the bail hearings conducted by the Sandiganbayan, without prejudice to the OSP's right to present any additional evidence during the trial proper of this case to prove beyond reasonable doubt the existence of all the elements of the crime of Plunder.

Lanete posted bail for her temporary freedom in 2016, while Napoles remained behind bars as she was convicted in other cases related to the pork barrel scam. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)


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