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Court OKs 75-percent bail discount for Napoles kin

Elizabeth Marcelo - Philstar.com
Court OKs 75-percent bail discount for Napoles kin

The bail bond set by the court was for the three accused's provisional liberty from 97 counts of graft and 97 counts of malversation of public funds through falsification of public documents. Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has partially granted the request of the children and brother of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles for the reduction of their P22.31-million bail bond in connection with their 194 criminal cases over the Malampaya fund scam.

In a two-page minute resolution dated December 15, released to the media Wednesday, the court's Third Division ruled to fix the bail bond of Napoles' children Jo Christine and James Christopher, and her brother Ronald Francisco Lim at P5.577 million each.

“The Court, without underestimating the gravity and the number of of the crimes herein charged, may exercise its discretion to fix or reduce the amount of bail bond based on the nature and the circumstances of the crimes charged to give substance and meaning to the constitutional right of the accused to bail,” the court's ruling read.

The bail bond set by the court was for the three accused's provisional liberty from 97 counts of graft and 97 counts of malversation of public funds through falsification of public documents.

The cases stemmed from the alleged misuse of P900 million worth of government income from the Malampaya natural gas project intended for farmers affected by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng which hit the country late 2009.

The Office of the Ombudsman, which filed the cases early this month, said Napoles, her children and brother, conspired with former Budget secretary and incumbent Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., former Agrarian Reform secretary and incumbent Masiu, Lanao del Sur mayor Nasser Pangandaman Jr. and five other former government officials in allegedly funneling the P900-million fund to bogus non-government organizations.

The ombudsman had earlier recommended to the Sandiganbayan to set the bail at P30,000 for each count of graft and P200,000 for each count of malversation through falsification or a total of P22.31million for each of the accused.

In their joint motion filed on December 12, Jo Christine, James Christopher and Ronald Francisco prayed to the court to reduce their bail bond by more than 3,000 percent or to P690,000 each.

The three said the ombudsman's recommended bail was excessive and punitive and deprives them of their right to bail given their financial incapacity to pay.

In its ruling, however, the Third Division fixed the bail bond for the 97 counts of graft at P727,500 and for the 97 counts of malversation through falsification at P4.85 million or a total of P5.577 for each accused.

The Third Division said the amount of bail that it fixed shall apply to all the accused in the cases including Andaya and Pangandaman.

Meanwhile, the court denied Jo Christine, James Christopher and Ronald Francisco's prayer to hold in abeyance the issuance of arrest warrant against them.

“However, the prayer for the suspension of the issuance of the warrant of arrest is denied considering the Court's finding of probable cause in these cases,” the ruling read.

The Third Division, however, has yet to issue an arrest warrant against any of the accused as of Wednesday. It has also yet to release its ruling finding probable cause to proceed with the trial of the Malampaya cases.

Napoles, who is one of the accused, is currently detained for plunder cases in connection with the equally controversial pork barrel scam.

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