Sandiganbayan clears Napoles in set of graft cases, convicts her in another

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Sandiganbayan clears Napoles in set of graft cases, convicts her in another
In this file photo, jail guards escort Janet Lim-Napoles to the Sandiganbayan for a hearing on January 20, 2016.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has found plunder convict Janet Lim Napoles not guilty of graft in 16 cases related to Priority Development Assistance Fund projects of Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., who himself was acquitted of plunder in 2021.

In a ruling by a separate anti-graft court division, Napoles was found guilty on two counts of graft and two counts of malversation in another PDAF scam case, this time involving a Davao del Sur lawmaker.

Despite the recent acquittal, Napoles will remain in detention.

The Sandiganbayan First Division acquitted Napoles as it held that the alleged acts in the case “are predicate crimes of Plunder” in a case already ruled on by the court. In the said case, Napoles was found guilty and convicted of Plunder.

'Essentially the same case'

The Sandiganbayan said that the acts imputed to Revilla, erstwhile chief of staff Richard Cambe, Napoles and others in the plunder case and this graft case are the same. Evidence presented by the prosecution in both trials were also essentially the same.


Cambe has since died in government custody.

The court stressed that the “crux or central issue” of plunder is “the combination or series of overt or criminal acts” or predicate acts—these include malversation, bribery and violations of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

It cited the 2002 Supreme Court ruling on Estrada v. Sandiganbayan, where the tribunal held that “the prosecution can incorporate all the predicate acts in one charge of Plunder instead of preparing a multitude of Informations and proving all of them in court.”

“Since the predicate acts were already used as basis of the crime of Plunder, then the accused can no longer be charged separately for violation of the Anti-Graft Law,” it said.

In the case at hand, the Sandiganbayan pointed out that the acts that gave unwarranted benefits to Napoles and her associated NGOs and the receipt of kickbacks are “exactly what was described in the Information for Plunder.”

“Based on the above disquisitions and considering that the charge of Plunder against accused Revilla, Cambe and Napoles is based on the predicate acts, which also constitute as violation of Section 3(e), RA 3019, the accused’s liability could no longer be determined in the cases as these offense were already included in the Plunder case for which they were already prosecuted for,” the ruling said.

“This fact became even more apparent after the presentation of the same testimonial and documentary evidence in both cases,” it added.

Guilty in separate case

In a separate ruling by the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division, Napoles was found guilty of two counts of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and two counts of malversation under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.

Specifically, Section 3(e) of RA 3019 accuses “causing undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”

The case involves PDAF projects under former Rep. Douglas Cagas (Davao del Sur), who has since died. 

In convicting Napoles, the court said that she and two other private individuals, Mylene Encarnacion  and Evelyn De Leon “acted in conspiracy with the concerned accused public officials in committing the crime of violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019.”

“As discussed above, the prosecution successfully showed that accused Napoles actually owns, controls, and operates bogus NGOs CARED and PSDFI,” where Encarnacion and De Leon were presidents, it added. — with Jonathan de Santos

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