Solicitor General Jose Calida has recommended the acquittal of Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the multi-billion priority development assistance funds (PDAF) scam, claiming that she was wrongly convicted by the Regional Trial Court over her serious illegal detention case.
“In the case of Napoles, it is my well-considered opinion, as well as the opinion of my assistant solicitor generals, that the court, the Regional Trial Court, erred in convicting the accused, Janet Napoles, for the crime of serious illegal detention,” Calida said in a press conference on Wednesday, February 15.
In 2014, Napoles was sentenced to reclusion perpetua, or an imprisonment term of 21 up to 40 years. Judge Elmo Alameda of the Makati Regional Trial Court found Napoles guilty of detaining her cousin and principal scam whistleblower, Benhur Luy, from December 2012 to March 2013.
But according to Calida, Luy’s behavior during his supposed three months in detention “belies the fact that he was actually detained or deprived of his liberty.”
“Benhur was not actually restrained inside the retreat house. According to witnesses, he acted like any other normal person who would undergo a retreat. He would read the Bible, he would jot notes, he participated in the Mass and other things that somebody who undergoes retreats should do,” Calida said.
The solicitor general pointed out that Luy had access to a cellphone but never called anyone to tell them that he was being confined.
He added that Luy was able to see his family three times and was also able to slip a letter to a relative on February 21, 2013, but “in none of these instances did he (Luy) intimate to anyone that he was being kidnapped or detained by the appellant.”
“When we look at the evidence, the transcript of records, there are many glaring instances which will support the acquittal of the accused,” Calida said.
The solicitor general then claimed that “injustice was done” toward Napoles.
Calida, however, clarified that Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) did not file a manifestation for the purpose of acquitting Napoles.
He said the the OSG only wanted the Court of Appeals “to know what is our opinion on the matter.”
“We will not do justice if we will not make right what is wrong,” Calida said. “Justice will not send an innocent person to the gallows. It is my bound duty to state the facts.”
Calida also denied the rumors that the present administration wants to make a deal with Napoles. He insisted that President Rodrigo Duterte “has nothing to do with this decision.”
“What deal are you talking about? We are talking about the rule of law here. There’s no deal as far as I’m concerned because my interest is to see to it that justice is done,” the solicitor general replied when sought for comments.
He added that the OSG’s move in Napoles’ serious illegal detention case will have no implications to her PDAF, or also referred to as pork barrel, scam cases.
But Senator Leila De Lima, who was the justice secretary when Napoles was charged with plunder over the multi-billion PDAF scam, said that the solicitor general’s move was “questionable and suspicious.”
“It’s [a] different case pero doon nga nabuo ang usapin ng PDAF scam. Kaya nalaman dahil nga na-detain against his will si Benhur Luy…It is questionable. I find it suspicious,” De Lima told reporters on Wednesday.
She then added, “Pambihira yan mangyari na yung estado (It’s unusual that the state) through SolGen would now move to acquit, would now share the position of the convicted accused?”