Napoles, ex-Cagayan de Oro congressman found guilty of graft in pork barrel scam

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Erratum: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Atty. Francisco Figura was among those convicted. He was acquitted of the charges. We apologize for this mistake.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 5) — The Sandiganbayan has again convicted businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles in connection with the pork barrel scam – this time, along with former Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Constantino Jaraula.

In a 103-page decision released on Friday, the first division of the anti-graft court found Napoles, Jaraula, and three cohorts “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” for three counts of graft and three counts of malversation of public funds, particularly the lawmaker’s Priority Development Assistance Fund.

They were also ordered to return to the government a total of ₱28.8 million, “representing the amount wrongfully or illegally disbursed.”

Also convicted were Ma. Rosalinda Lacsamana and Belina Concepcion, former officials of the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center, and Mylene Encarnacion, president of the non-government organization Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation (CARED). Meanwhile, six others were acquitted as the prosecution failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt, but they still have to pay civil liabilities.

Jaraula is separately convicted of direct bribery for receiving at least ₱2 million in kickbacks from Napoles in exchange of choosing CARED as the partner NGO in the implementation of his PDAF-funded livelihood program for farmers in the lone district of Cagayan de Oro in 2007. Jaraula now has to pay thrice the amount he pocketed, or P6 million.

Jaraula earlier denied involvement in the scheme, saying his supposed signatures in various documents relating to his PDAF were forged. Examination into what he agrees as genuine signatures and what he claims as fake show they are “very similar, if not identical,” the Sandiganbayan noted.

Whistleblower Benhur Luy, the second cousin of Napoles who previously worked for her, also testified that he transacted with Jaraula, and even gave him the rebates, as evidenced by his daily disbursement reports which even matched public records of deposits made to the accounts of CARED and Jaraula.

“The prosecution was able to show that the accused, through their concerted acts, with evident bad faith and manifest partiality, gave CARED, and in turn, accused Napoles, unwarranted benefits,” the ruling penned by Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona read.

Detained Napoles has been tagged queen of the pork barrel scam, where funds allotted for lawmakers’ projects were funneled into bogus NGOs.

READ: Napoles convicted, Revilla acquitted of plunder

An estimated ₱10 billion in government funds were allegedly lost to the scheme, pocketed by Napoles and the lawmakers she had connived with. The Supreme Court declared the PDAF unconstitutional in 2013 following the exposé on its misuse.