By Ma. Reina L Tolentinto /Manila Times
The Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division has denied the motion of former senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Janet Lim Napoles to be allowed to file demurrer to evidence in the plunder case they are facing in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.
The anti-graft court said there was sufficient evidence to warrant their conviction if they would not be able to rebut it during trial.
“This court is convinced that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence, both testimonial and documentary, which established each element of the crime of plunder against the accused. This, if unrebutted by contrary evidence, is sufficient to support a conviction for the crime as charged,” the court said.
A demurrer to evidence is a motion to dismiss, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence presented by the prosecution during trial.
“The prosecution was able to establish that Napoles and Estrada agreed to funnel the PDAF allocation of Estrada through the bogus non-government organisations (NGOs) Mamfi and SDPFFI of Napoles, for a percentage commission ranging from 40-60% percent of the PDAF, in exchange for kickbacks and commissions, to be divided among themselves. The project listings of Estrada identified the IAs (Implementing Agencies) and NGOs controlled by Napoles. The project listing is then attached to the endorsement letters issued by Estrada to the head of the Senate, who endorses the same to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM),” the court said.
Mamfi is the Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc and SDPFFI is Social Development Programme for Farmers Foundation Inc.
The court said there was sufficient proof to establish that the first payment of commissions happened after the signing of the project listing. The second tranche of payment is given after the release of the Special Allotment Release Order or SARO.
“All payments were given to Estrada through his representatives…, until he transacted personally with Napoles in 2010 and 2012. (Benhur) Luy encodes the payment transactions in his computer, which was later on stored in an external hard drive. Endorsement letters containing the personal endorsement of Estrada, MOA (Memorandum of Agreement), project proposal are then submitted to the identified IA, for the release of the check payment from the DBM,” the court said.
Luy was one of Napoles’ office staff. The next step was the issuance of checks to the NGOs allegedly controlled by Napoles, the court said.
It said Estrada’s commissions were paid through his representatives “who personally came to the JLN office, where cash payments were being made and corresponding vouchers were signed as proof of payment.”
“The last stage of the PDAF scheme involves the submission of fake liquidation documents for purposes of CoA Audit, where fictitious or forged list of beneficiaries are being manufactured. In order to cover up her involvement and to prevent detection by the authorities, Napoles instructed Luy and her employees to shred all the documents related with the NGOs and the PDAF of the lawmakers,” the court added.
Estrada’s camp had argued that the prosecution failed to establish that he had received the amount alleged in the charge sheet or that he had amassed ill-gotten wealth.
Napoles, meanwhile, said the charge sheet failed to identify any former public official as the main plunderer.
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