Senators to SolGen: Why spend taxpayers' money to acquit a criminal?

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators slammed Solicitor General Jose Calida for spending taxpayers' money in a bid to acquit a criminal, in this case, someone accused of masterminding the biggest corruption scandal in Philippine history. 

Senator Francis Pangilinan questioned the move of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to recommend the acquittal of Janet Lim Napoles, alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, in a serious illegal detention case. (READ: SolGen moves to acquit Napoles in Luy detention case)

"Ipapa-walangsala at pakakawalan si Janet Napoles ng gobyerno? Sa dinamidami ng kasong hinahawakan ng SolGen, bakit ito ang binibigyan nila ng oras at panahon? Free all corrupt detainees?" Pangilinan asked in a Facebook post on Wednesday, February 15. 

(The government wants to secure the acquittal and release of Janet Napoles? Of the multitude of cases being handled by the SolGen, why are they giving this their time and effort? Free all corrupt detainees?)

He said in Filipino that the OSG's move reflected the "blatant mockery of the law and the justice system prevailing now."

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV shared the sentiment of his fellow Liberal Party member.

"Bakit kailangang kumilos ang pamahalaan upang protektahan si Janet Napoles? Tama bang gamitin ng Solicitor General ang pera ng taumbayan upang ipagtanggol ang mga sangkot sa pinakamalaking kaso ng pagnanakaw sa kaban ng bayan?" Aquino asked in a statement on Thursday, February 16.

(Why does the government have to move to protect Janet Napoles? Is it right for the Solicitor General to use the people's money to defend those involved in the biggest case of plunder of the nation's coffers?)

Aquino said the OSG's move is a point against the reimposition of capital punishment in the country, which is feared to prejudice poor crime suspects who cannot afford topnotch lawyers. 

"Malinaw na may mali sa mga pangyayaring ito at na ang sistemang panghustisya ng ating bayan ay tila nakapabor sa mga mayayaman at maimpluwensya. Ito ba ang sistema ng hustisya na bibigyan natin ng kapangyarihang magpataw ng kamatayan?" the senator said.

(There is clearly something wrong in these developments, and that the system of justice in the country seems to favor the rich and the influential. Is this the system of justice that we should empower to mete the death penalty?)

'Nightmare'

For Senator Risa Hontiveros, the government's bid for Napoles' acquittal is "disturbing" since if it succeeds, it can be used to attack the credibility of state witness Benhur Luy.

Luy is a state witness in the plunder cases against Napoles. On April 14, 2015, a Makati trial court convicted and sentenced Napoles to reclusion perpetua or 40 years in jail for forcibly detaining Luy first in a retreat house and then in her own home from December 2012 to March 2013.

Hontiveros also described the OSG's move as "nightmarish," coming after the acquittal of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of plunder charges, and the hero's burial for strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

"Tila may reunion ang mga korap sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang administrasyon (There seems to be a reunion of the corrupt under the current administration)," said Hontiveros.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported that the OSG filed a manifestation before the Court of Appeals (CA) last January 11, recommending Napoles' acquittal. (READ: SolGen parrots Napoles arguments in Luy case)

Calida and Palace officials, who insisted that there was no secret deal being forged with Napoles, said the OSG's move is just consistent with "upholding the rule of law."

Senator Leila de Lima earlier tagged the development as "questionable" and "suspicious," as it was unusual for the state to side with someone who had been convicted.

"From the 'tribune of the people' to the 'tribune of convicted criminals,' this is probably the lowest point ever that the OSG has reached in its years of existence. The professional career lawyers of the OSG must be cringing at this latest stunt of their Solicitor General," the senator said on Wednesday. Rappler.com