Manila Bulletin

Cal­ida: Makati court erred in con­vict­ing Napoles

- By JEF­FREY G. DAMICOG and GENALYN D. KABILING Corruption · Crime · U.S. News · White-collar Crime · Discrimination · Sexual Abuse · Fraud · Human Rights · Society · Violence and Abuse · Makati City · Makati · FBI · Philippines · Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Jose Cal­ida be­lieves in­jus­tice was done to pork bar­rel scam mas­ter­mind Janet Lim Napoles when she was convicted for de­tain­ing whistle­blower Ben­hur Luy.

“In­jus­tice was done to Janet Napoles,” Cal­ida told re­porters dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Makati City

Wed­nes­day.

He de­fended the man­i­fes­ta­tion his of­fice filed be­fore the Court of Ap­peals 13th Divi­sion that is hear­ing Napoles’ ap­peal to over­turn the April 14, 2015 con­vic­tion of a Makati re­gional trial court (RTC).

The ap­pel­late court had asked the Of­fice of the So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral to com­ment on Napoles’ ap­peal.

“It is my opin­ion that the RTC erred in con­vict­ing the ac­cused Janet Napoles for the crime of se­ri­ous il­le­gal de­ten­tion,” Cal­ida said.

“Jus­tice will not send an in­no­cent per­son to the gal­lows. It is my bound duty to state the facts,” he said.

Cal­ida said that dur­ing Napoles’ trial, it was cited that Luy was able to see his fam­ily three times while sup­pos­edly be­ing de­tained by Napoles.

And se­cu­rity guards tes­ti­fied that when the Na­tional Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (NBI) agents came to res­cue him, Luy re­fused to go with them, claim­ing he was not be­ing de­tained, he added.

De­spite this, the So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral as­sured that his po­si­tion will not af­fect the Pri­or­ity Devel­op­ment As­sis­tance Fund (PDAF) scam cases pend­ing with the Sandi­gan­bayan.

“This se­ri­ous il­le­gal de­ten­tion has noth­ing to do with the cases of Janet Napoles on PDAF. These are two sep­a­rate mat­ters,” he pointed out.

Re­act­ing to Cal­ida’s com­ment on the il­le­gal de­ten­tion case, Chief Pres­i­den­tial Le­gal Coun­sel Sal­vador Panelo said Napoles could be tapped as a wit­ness to help the gov­ern­ment run af­ter other pub­lic of­fi­cials in­volved in the al­leged fund mis­use.

“Bakit na­man hindi? [Why not?] If she will re­veal things that she did not re­veal be­fore, then cases can be filed against those whom she has im­pli­cated,” Panelo said in a me­dia in­ter­view.

“Any­thing that is ir­reg­u­lar and il­le­gal, any ad­min­is­tra­tion should pur­sue be­cause it is bound by law to do it,” he added.

Turn­ing an ac­cused into a state wit­ness will not be easy be­cause it car­ries cer­tain re­quire­ments, Panelo said. For one, Napoles must prove she is not the most guilty in the fund mis­use case.

“If she ap­pears to be the least guilty, she can be a state wit­ness, but if she is part of the grand con­spir­acy, she might even be the mas­ter­mind, how can we do that?” he said.

Still, Panelo said Malacañang is be­hind the So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral’s re­ported move to seek the ac­quit­tal of Napoles in the de­ten­tion case. He said Cal­ida must have found the ev­i­dence does not war­rant the pros­e­cu­tion of Napoles.

A re­port by the Philip­pine Cen­ter for In­ves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ism (PCIJ) re­vealed that the OSG filed a 10-page man­i­fes­ta­tion be­fore the ap­pel­late court seek­ing the ac­quit­tal of Napoles last month.

Panelo how­ever de­nied it was Pres­i­dent Duterte who or­dered Cal­ida to seek Napoles’ ac­quit­tal, say­ing the Pres­i­dent does not in­ter­fere with the work of agen­cies as long as they fol­low the law.

Panelo also said Cal­ida’s man­i­fes­ta­tion should not be in­ter­preted as the gov­ern­ment soft­en­ing its stance on Napoles.

He said that if the state lawyers see the ac­cused has been wrongly pros­e­cuted, they will do what must be done based on the law.

“You have to have a strong ev­i­dence to get a con­vic­tion. If the OSG thinks there is no ev­i­dence, it will not risk los­ing. It would rather rec­om­mend a dis­missal so it can strengthen the case be­fore it is re-filed,” Panelo said.

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