SB acquits Janet Napoles in 16 cases over PDAF scam tied to Sen. Revilla; convicts her in 4 other cases

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 22) – The Sandiganbayan (SB)'s first division has acquitted detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles in 16 criminal cases over the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam, the same ones Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla was earlier cleared of, saying state prosecutors failed to prove that the accused committed acts in violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

EXPLAINER: What you need to know about the PDAF scam

In July 2021, the SB cleared Revilla of 16 counts of graft after he allegedly diverted his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) from 2007 to 2009 to non-government organizations under the control of Napoles, said to be the mastermind behind the PDAF scam, otherwise known as the "Pork Barrel scam.”

READ: Sandiganbayan clears Bong Revilla of graft charges in pork barrel scam

Despite his acquittal from the 16 counts, Revilla was ordered to return ₱124.5 million to the national treasury, though his camp continues to contest the demand.

Revilla was also detained from 2014 to 2018 in Camp Crame over the graft charges.

He was accused of receiving ₱224.5 million in kickbacks from Napoles for his participation in the PDAF scam.

On Napoles' acquittal in the cases, the court said in its decision that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt her guilt in all 16 charges earlier linked to Revilla.

The 223-page decision of the anti-graft court's first division also explained: "The alleged acts are predicate crimes of Plunder in 'People V. Ramon 'Bong' Revilla, Jr.,' Criminal Case No. SB-14-CRM-0240, under which she has already been previously charged and convicted."

Predicate crimes are a component of a larger crime. For instance, malversation, bribery and violations of the anti-graft law are some of the criminal acts that become the basis of the more serious crime of plunder.

According to the Sandiganbayan, since the predicate acts were used as basis of the crime of plunder, which Napoles has already been prosecuted for, then she could no longer be charged separately for the violation of the anti-graft law.

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

The first division likewise acquitted National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) employees Godeline Amata, Ofelia Ordoñez, Sofia Cruz, Evelyn Sucgang; Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) employees Francisco Figura, Ma. Rosalinda Lacsamana, Marivic Jover, Consuelo Lilian Espiritu; and National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) employees Victor Cacal, and Maria Guañizo of graft charges linked to the scam.

The court, however, found guilty of graft TLRC employee Dennis Cunanan; NLDC employee Gregoria Buenaventura; NABCOR employee Rhodora Mendoza; and private individuals Evelyn De Leon, Laarni Uy and Jocelyn Piorato.

They were sentenced to imprisonment of up to eight years for each count, disqualified from holding public office, and their retirement benefits were forfeited.

An estimated ₱10 billion in government funds were lost as a result of the PDAF scam.

Graft, malversation convictions

However, in an earlier decision promulgated May 19, the SB's second division convicted Napoles of two counts of graft and two counts of malversation.

These convictions were made over the misuse of PDAF linked to the late former Davao Del Sur 1st district Rep. Douglas Cagas.

The court's second division said Cagas endorsed the Countrywide Agri Rural Economic and Develoment Foundation, Inc. (CARED) and Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI) – non-government organizations controlled by Napoles – as project partners to implement livelihood projects throughout his legislative district.

He also issued a Special Allotment Release Order allotting ₱8 million each in funding to CARED and PSDFI from his PDAF despite both being unaccredited.

Employees of the Department of Budget and Management facilitated the processing of the SARO and released the funds from the PDAF to the TLRC, the court decision noted.

It said Cagas and the TLRC entered a memorandum of agreement with CARED and the PSDFI, and processed the release of ₱7.68 million to Napoles’ NGOs without proper examination and verification, resulting in ₱15.36 million in losses.

Napoles also offered large kickbacks to those involved with the scam, with the late Davao congressman receiving up to ₱9.30 million from the businesswoman, the court said.

She was sentenced with imprisonment of up to 10 years for each graft count, and a maximum of 17 years for each count of malversation.

Napoles was also ordered to pay fines of ₱7.68 million for each of the graft charges, and ₱7.68 million for each of the malversation charges.

The following co-accused of Napoles were also convicted of one count each of graft and malversation in relation to the misuse of Cagas’ PDAF: Belina Concepcion, Mylene Encarnacion, Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana, and Evelyn De Leon.

The SB also earlier convicted Napoles of graft for diverting funds from the PDAF of Cagayan de Oro Rep. Constantino Jaraula.

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