THE Sandiganbayan yesterday said there is enough evidence to convict for plunder losing senatorial candidate Jinggoy Estrada and Janet Lim Napoles.
The Sandiganbayan said the prosecution successfully presented enough evidence to warrant a conviction against Estrada and Napoles over their alleged connivance in the misuse of P183 million worth of Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or pork barrel.
The Fifth Division denied the demurrers to evidence of both Estrada and Napoles.
“Based on the evidence on record, this court is convinced that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence both testimonial and documentary which established each element of the crime of plunder against the accused,” the resolution read.
“This, if unrebutted by contrary evidence, is sufficient to support a conviction for the crimes charge,” it added.
A demurrer to evidence is a motion seeking the outright dismissal of a case without having to go to presentation of defense.
But in the case of Estrada and Napoles, the Sandiganbayan said the prosecution had enough proof to find them guilty.
Estrada lost his return bid for the Senate. His father, former President Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada, likewise lost reelection as Manila Mayor.
Jinggoy Estrada is out on bail.
Estrada, in his petition, said that the state prosecutors failed to cite the mastermind in his case, which continued to operate even without his supposed participation in the scheme between 2004 and 2012.
Estrada said even the whistle-blowers failed to link him to the scheme, noting that none of them saw him receive his supposed kickbacks from Napoles.
He also said his letters to various implementing agencies endorsing the Napoles-led non-government organizations (NGO) Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. and Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. are not enough to prove his criminal liability.
Napoles, who faces a maximum prison term of 40 years for the misappropriation of re-elected Senator Ramon Bong Revilla Jr.’s P224-million PDAF, for her part, said she cannot be the “main plunderer” since the plunder law states only a public officer can be the mastermind in a scheme.
According to Napoles the mastermind should either be Estrada or his at-large former chief of staff, Paulene Labayen.
However, the Sandiganbayan said prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman showed how Napoles and Estrada conspired with each other to illegally enrich themselves from the public funds.
Evidence showed that Estrada received his first tranche of kickbacks from Napoles after the signing of the project listing, while the second would be given after the release of the special allotment release order.
All transactions were recorded by scheme whistle-blower Benhur Luy in his computer and later in an external hard drive, according to the Sandiganbayan.