The Sandiganbayan on Friday sentenced businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles to at least 64 years in prison after finding her guilty of four counts each of graft and malversation of public funds.
The case was in connection with the illegal disbursement of at least P20 million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, of former South Cotabato Representative Arthur Pingoy.
In a 57-page decision promulgated by the Special Second Division, which garnered a 3-2 vote, Napoles was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison for her four malversation of public funds conviction and some 24 years for her conviction on four counts of graft.
The same decision cleared all her co-accused public officials in all cases, except for the P2.9-million malversation case involving Pingoy's PDAF under case number SB-16-CRM-0261.
In the said case, Napoles was convicted of malversation alongside former state-run National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) officials Rhodora Mendoza, Victor Cacal and Maria Ninez Guañizo.
Napoles and each of the NABCOR officials were sentenced to spend 10 to 16 years in prison and pay the government P2.9 million or the amount malversed for their conviction.
Aside from jail time, the Sandiganbayan division also ordered Napoles to pay the government at least P41 million, which is the amount of the public funds misused as a result of her criminal charges conviction.
The anti-graft court also noted that there is no evidence that Pingoy was involved in the scheme.
"There is no sufficient evidence that Pingoy received kickbacks from Napoles through [former Energy Regulatory Commission chairperson Zenaida] Ducut. Even prosecution witness [and former JLN Corporation Finance Officer Benhur] Luy admitted that he has never seen Pingoy, nor directly deliver to him any amount of money as kickbacks," the Sandiganbayan said.
The anti-graft court also cited that while Luy testified that he gave money to Ducut, he has no personal knowledge at all as to whether or not Ducut gave the same money or a portion of it to Pingoy.
"While Luy testified that he kept a document called the daily disbursement records that contained Pingoy's name, it is not a convincing evidence of criminal liability of the persons whose names were indicated therein unless there is an equally sufficient evidence that will corroborate the entries in such private document," the Sandiganbayan said.
Napoles camp to appeal
Napoles' lawyer, Atty. Rony Garay, said they will appeal the decision.
"We will file a motion for reconsideration," Garay told GMA News Online.
"No public official was convicted, and yet this crime is committed with a public official," he added.
Napoles attended her promulgation virtually.
Napoles employee also convicted
Aside from Napoles, also convicted of three counts of graft and three counts of malversation of public funds in the case involving Pingoy's pork barrel was Evelyn de Leon, president of the Napoles-controlled non-government entity Philippine Social Development Foundation, Inc.
De Leon was sentenced to a jail time of six to 10 years per count of graft conviction, 10 to 12 years in two counts of malversation conviction, and 10 to 16 years in one count of malversation conviction for a total of at least 48 years.
The sentence was on top of the fines she has to pay as a result of her conviction.
Napoles is already in detention at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City due to her plunder conviction involving the illegal disbursement of P224 million worth of PDAF of Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. in December 2018.
In February 2021, the Sandiganbayan also convicted Napoles, former Cagayan de Oro Representative Constantino Jaraula, and three others of three counts of graft and three counts malversation for pocketing at least P19.2 million of the lawmaker's pork barrel — a budget provision that should have benefit district constituents under the law that time.
Last May, the Sandiganbayan Second Division found Napoles guilty for two counts of graft and two counts of malversation over the illegal disbursement of P7.6 million pork barrel fund of former Davao del Sur Representative Douglas Cagas.
Just last October 3, the Sandiganbayan also found Napoles guilty of nine counts of corruption of public official for receiving P8,999,500 in kickbacks off the pork barrel of former APEC party-list lawmaker Edgar Valdez. —KBK, GMA Integrated News