Sandigan junks Napoles' latest motion challenging plunder case

MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court has denied the latest bid of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles to discuss again the validity of the P183-million plunder case against her and former senator Jinggoy Estrada.

The Sandiganbayan has denied the urgent ex-parte motion of Napoles, who argued that the case against her is invalid as it failed to identify the main plunderer.

Napoles had previously invoked the Supreme Court ruling on former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's plunder case for the "main plunderer doctrine," which says that there cannot be a crime of plunder if there is no main plunderer.

The anti-graft court, however, countered Napoles' argument, saying that in the Arroyo case it was hard to determine who the main plunderer was because all those involved were government officials. In Napoles' case, however, only two were public officials – Estrada and his staff Pauline Labayen – and that Estrada was in custody and in control of the subject Priority Development Assistance Fund.

Estrada has been out on bail since September 2017, when the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division granted his petition for bail in a close 3-2 vote.

"The eyes are useless when the mind is blind. It is apparent that the information refers to Estrada as the mastermind of the PDAF scheme or the main plunderer. The main plunderer is a public officer," the Sandiganbayan said in the resolution penned by Associate Justice and Fifth Division chairman Rafael Lagos.

Associate justices Maria Theresa Mendoza Arcega and Maryann Corpus Mañalac concurred with the resolution.

"Even if there was no express mention in the information that Estrada was the mastermind, it suffices that the Information used the words 'conspiring with one another' connoting a joint and several liability, negating a separate and individual culpability," the Sandiganbayan added.

The anti-graft court denied the urgent ex-parte motion for lack of merit and asked Napoles to exercise her constitutional rights during the presentation of evidence. –