By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has allowed both former Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and his co-accused, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles to challenge the prosecution’s evidence as insufficient in their plunder charge.
Both of them were charged with plunder in relation to the illegal use of Estrada’s P183 million priority development assistance fund (PDAF), which reportedly went to the fictitious non-government organizations (NGOs) owned by Napoles.
Estrada and Napoles filed their own respective motions for leave to file demurrer to evidence, which is an objection to the effect that the evidence of the prosecution is insufficient in point of law to render a guilty verdict.
In Estrada’s motion, he argued that an evaluation of the prosecution’s evidence is warranted, given the fact that the anti-graft court entitled him to post bail back in 2017.
Because of this, Estrada said the evidence is weak and the accusations against him are unfounded.
Estrada added in his motion that he “need not even attempt to prove his innocence and should not be made to wait until the entirety of trial is completed to assert his right to be presumed innocent.”
Meanwhile, Napoles stated in her motion that the prosecution failed to establish that each accused, by their individual acts, agreed to participate in the so-called scam.
She added that there was no main plunderer identified, and the Supreme Court even pronounced that this failure to do so is “fatal to the cause of the state for violating the rights of each accused to be informed of the charges against them.”
Despite the opposition of the prosecution to both their motions, the anti-graft court still ruled to grant their demurrer.
“After a careful examination of the totality of the evidence presented by the prosecution, both testimonial and documentary, the court resolves to grant the present motion of the accused, to sufficiently provide him/her an opportunity to challenge the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence establishing the material elements of the offense charged to support a judgment of guilt,” their resolutions read.
They have been given 10 days from the receipt of the resolution to file their respective demurrers.
The resolution was penned by Chairperson Rafael Lagos with the concurrence of Associate Justices Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann Corpus-Manalac.