March 21, 2019 at 01:10 am
Former Senator Jinggoy Estrada and pork-barrel-scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles are set to seek the dismissal of their cases at the Sandiganbayan.
This developed as the anti-graft court approved the separate petitions for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence.
A plea of demurrer to evidence is a motion for the court to decide on a case based on the evidence submitted by the accuser―in these cases the Ombudsman―while a petition for leave of court is a request to the court to file the motion for demurrer to evidence.
Without an approved leave of court, the accused will not be provided with a chance to prove his guilt should the court determine that he is guilty based on the evidence at hand.
Estrada’s and Napoles’s motions were approved in separate resolutions dated March 13 by the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division.
“After a meticulous examination of the totality of the evidence presented by the prosecution, the court resolves to grant the present motion of the accused,” the Sandiganbayan said.
In his motion, Estrada said the Ombudsman failed to prove that he misappropriated his P183-million Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel, to the fake non-government organizations of Napoles.
He said the prosecution had no evidence that he was the mastermind behind the scheme, nor was there proof he acted in conspiracy with Napoles and his former deputy chief of staff Pauline Labayen.
Napoles, on the other hand, said the prosecution had no proof the crime of plunder even existed. She said, “the lack of a main plunderer deprived her the chance to properly defend herself.”
Ombudsman prosecutors, however, claimed that the report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council alone showed Estrada’s receipt of P70.7 million worth of kickbacks. The prosecutors said the Sandiganbayan itself found Estrada received P55.8 million.
Estrada, the prosecutors said, “cannot claim there was no main plunderer in the scheme,” saying “his endorsement of the Napoles-led foundations shows he was part of the misappropriation of public funds.”
The demurrers of Estrada and Napoles will give the court the chance to “evaluate whether the prosecution evidence is sufficient enough to warrant the conviction of the accused beyond reasonable doubt,” the resolutions read.
The camps of Estrada and Napoles were given 10 days to file their demurrers, while the prosecution was given the same period to submit its comment.
The Fifth Division chairman, Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, and Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann Corpus-Mañalac signed the resolution.