Calida: Makati court erred in convicting Napoles
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
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.