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Napoles to seek bail following Jinggoy's move

The lawyer of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles said their camp would follow the move of former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. Philstar.com/File photo
MANILA, Philippines — The camp of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the multibillion-peso pork barrel fund scam, will be filing another motion to seek her provisional liberty for her plunder cases.
 
In a chance interview with reporters, Napoles' lawyer Dennis Buenaventura said their camp would follow the move of former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.
 
On Saturday, Estrada was released from the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City where he had been detained for more than three years. He posted P1.33 million bail bond for one count of plunder and 11 counts of graft.
 
Napoles was named as Estrada's co-accused in all his cases.
 
 
Estrada's release from detention came after the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division, in a vote of 3-2, granted his omnibus motio filed in September last year, in which, he prayed to the court to either dismiss the case or allow him to post bail.
 
The Fifth Division denied for “lack of merit” Estrada's prayer for the case's dismissal but it nonetheless granted his prayer for bail, siding with his argument that there was no evidence presented by the prosecution which shows that he is the “main plunderer” in the case.
 
“Magpa-file kami dito sa Fifth Division na muna. Tapos titingnan din namin yung sa other divisions. (We will first file a similar motion here at the Fifth Division. And then we will study the possible filing of the same motion before the other divisions),” Buenaventura said.
 
“In so far as we are concerned, this is favorable [to Napoles],” Buenaventura added referring to the court's resolution granting Estrada's bail.
 
Napoles is also named as co-accused in the plunder cases against former Sens. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile, former Masbate representative and incumbent Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete and former Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives party-list Rep. Edgar Valdez.
 
 
The court's Fourth and Fifth Divisions last year granted the bail petitions of Lanete and Valdez, respectively, including that of Napoles.
 
It can be recalled that the Fifth Division, in a 215-page resolution promulgated on Jan. 7, 2016, denied Estrada and Napoles' petition for bail.
 
Estrada and Napoles appealed the ruling through their respective motions for reconsideration but the same were denied on May 11 of that year.
 
The magistrates composing the Fifth Division have changed since. 
 
In its new ruling, the Fifth Division cited the Supreme Court's July 2016 decision on the plunder case of former president and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The case was in connection with the alleged misuse of the P366-million intelligence fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
 
In its ruling, the high tribunal reversed the Sandiganbayan's decision and granted Arroyo's demurrer to evidence which prayed for the dismissal of the case on the ground of the prosecution's failure to identify the main plunderer. The ruling was upheld by the SC in April this year.
 
“A reading of the Arroyo case shows that for a valid indictment for plunder, the [case] information must contain, in addition to the other elements... an allegation of a main plunderer who must be a public officer,” the Fifth Division's ruling read.
 
“The allegation of a main plunderer is now considered as integral elements in charging the crime of plunder. Thus, this fact must be properly alleged in the [case] information,” it added.
 
Buenaventura said that with the SC's decision on the Arroyo case, coupled with the Fifth Division's new ruling on Estrada's bail, there is now a solid ground to ask for Napoles' provisional freedom as she cannot be considered as the main plunderer in the “pork” cases.
 
“In the legal definition of plunder, the main plunderer cannot be a private person. It should be a public officer. So, if it appears like that, this [case] is not plunder. This is something else, very different from plunder,” he said.
 
Napoles is currently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology Female Dormitory at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
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