JANET Lim Napoles is guilty, the Sandiganbayan said.
The graft court’s First Division yesterday upheld the guilty verdict against convicted plunderer Napoles for the alleged misuse of the P224.5-million Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel, of former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
In a resolution, the court denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Napoles saying the evidence presented by the prosecution is sufficient to establish her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
According to the Sandiganbayan, the scheme involving the alleged plunder of P124.5 million of Revilla’s PDAF was carried out through the conspiracy between Napoles and Revilla’s former legislative aide, Richard Cambe, who was also convicted of plunder.
On December 7, 2018, the Sandiganbayan cleared Revilla of plunder.
Napoles appealed for the Sandiganbayan to reverse her conviction, saying the acquittal of Revilla should also clear her since the former lawmaker was considered to be the “main plunderer.”
In her appeal, Napoles said she could not be the main culprit because she is a private individual and the ill-gotten wealth she supposedly received only amounted to P44 million.
On the other hand, she said the evidence against Cambe, the next public officer after Revilla, showed he received kickbacks from Napoles worth P13.9 million, well below of the P50-million threshold for a plunder case.
But the Sandiganbayan said the amounts cited by Napoles is only a portion of the summary of rebates submitted by scheme whistleblower Benhur Luy. It noted Cambe further received P127.5 million in kickbacks from Napoles.
“It is clear that in the act of amassing and accumulation of ill-gotten wealth, Cambe did not act alone. He had a private individual, accused-movant Napoles, who not just aided him but was one in his design to amass and accumulate ill-gotten wealth,” the Sandiganbayan said.
It added that Napoles cannot claim ignorance of the scheme for she “took part in the conception or ‘planning’ of how to divert the PDAF for private gain.”
The court also denied Napoles’ claim that Luy and Cambe should be the ones charged with conspiracy, saying it was her who led the liquidation part of the scheme.
“A conspiracy between Cambe and Luy to the exclusion of Napoles could not be possible, because the (non-government organizations), through which the funds were diverted were all creations of Napoles. Napoles has control of the bank accounts of these NGOs,” the ruling added.
Napoles and Cambe, former chief of staff of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, were sentenced to life imprisonment.
“While the court did not find sufficient evidence for the pronouncement of guilt on the part of Revilla, there is overwhelming evidence presented to show that his co-accused, Cambe, who is a government official together with accused movant Janet Lim Napoles are the main plunderers in this case,” the ruling said.
“In fact, every time a big withdrawal is made from these bank accounts, it was Napoles whom the bank calls to verify or confirm the withdrawals, instead of the NGO’s (non-government organizations) president or officers,” the ruling added.
With Ryan Ponce Pacpaco