Napoles guilty in P15-M pork barrel case, cleared in another set of lawsuits

THE PHILIPPINES’ anti-graft court has convicted Janet Lim Napoles, the so-called pork barrel queen, in a corruption case that accused her of funneling P15.36 million in congressional funds from a late Davao congressman to a nongovernment group she owned.

In a 44-page decision dated May 19 and released on Monday, the Sandiganbayan Second Division found her guilty on two counts of malversation and on two counts of graft. Ms. Napoles allegedly diverted the funds of the late Davao del Sur Rep. Douglas R.A. Cagas’ discretionary funds.

The Sandiganbayan First Division in a separate case acquitted Ms. Napoles of 16 charges of graft in connection with Senator Ramon B. Revilla, Jr.’s congressional funds that were allegedly transferred to nongovernment groups she owned.   

The Second Division sentenced her to a jail time of 6-10 years for each of the graft charges and 12-17 years for each of the malversation charges. The court also banned her from holding public office.

It also fined her P7.68 million for each of the graft and malversation charges.   

Under the Revised Penal Code, a person found guilty of malversation may be ordered to pay a fine equal to the amount of the embezzled funds. 

On the other hand, the First Division said prosecutors had failed to prove her guilt in the 16 graft charges beyond reasonable doubt.

Mr. Revilla had been accused of earning P224.5 million in kickbacks through the pork barrel scam. He was cleared of the graft cases in 2021 for lack of evidence. The court said the accusations were “predicate crimes of plunder,” which she had already been convicted of in 2019.

“This fact became even more apparent after the presentation of the same testimonial and documentary evidence in both cases,” the court said in an order written by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg. First Division Presiding Justice Efren N. de La Cruz and Associate Justice Arthur O. Malabaguio concurred.

Ms. Napoles had been convicted of other charges related to the pork barrel scam.

In June last year, the Sandiganbayan junked several pleas seeking to dismiss corruption and malversation charges against Ms. Napoles and her associates.   

The pork barrel allowed legislators to fund small-scale projects in their districts that fell outside the national infrastructure program. The Supreme Court voided the practice in 2013 for being illegal. — JVDO