Strong evidence: Sandiganbayan denies Jinggoy, Janet’s demurrers in P183M plunder case

The Sandiganbayan has denied the demurrers of former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, finding the proof presented by Ombudsman prosecutors in their P183.8-million plunder case to be strong enough that they would need their own evidence to defend themselves.

In a recent resolution, the court’s 5th Division that if Estrada and Napoles did not refute the Ombudsman’s allegations by continuing the trial, the prosecution’s evidence would be “sufficient to support a conviction for the crimes charged.”

“Based on the evidence on record, 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,” said the resolution.

The per curiam resolution was signed by Associate Justices Rafael Lagos, Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann Corpus-Mañalac.

Estrada and Napoles had filed the demurrer in the hopes that the prosecution’s evidence would be deemed too weak to support a conviction without having to make an effort to rebut the case.

The court said the prosecution was “ultimately… able to establish that Napoles and Estrada agreed to funnel“ the senator’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) proceeds through the businesswoman’s bogus foundations Masaganang Ani Para Sa Magsasaka Foundation, Inc. (MAMFI) and Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (SDPFFI).

In exchange, prosecutors accused Estrada and Napoles of pocketing the proceeds as kickbacks.

The court added that “there is sufficient evidence to establish” that “the commissions of Estrada from all the transactions with Napoles’ NGOs 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 Sandiganbayan 1st Division convicted Napoles and legislative officer Richard Cambe of plunder for a similar scheme in which they pocketed the P124.5-million PDAF allocations of Sen. Bong Revilla.

However, Revilla was acquitted for lack of proof that Cambe gave him the kickbacks and ended up staging a comeback in the Senate. Estrada ran too, but did not share Revilla’s luck.

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