By Arjay L. Balinbin
Alleged pork barrel-scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles’s petition for bail has been denied by the Supreme Court (SC), stressing that invoking its ruling in the case of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is “unmeritorious.”
According to SC’s resolution dated Feb. 6, Ms. Napoles filed a motion for the reconsideration to overturn the Court’s decision dated Nov. 7 last year which affirmed the Sandiganbayan’s dismissal of her application for bail.
In her petition, Ms. Napoles argued that the SC in the case of Ms. Arroyo “reversed the Sandiganbayan’s denial of the demurrer to evidence in the plunder case against her on the prosecutions failure to specify the identity of the main plunderer, for whose benefit the ill-gotten wealth was amassed, accumulated, and acquired.”
Ms. Napoles’s camp argued that the SC’s ruling in Ms. Arroyo’s case “should have been applied to her case.”
“The Court finds (the) argument unmeritorious,” the SC said in its resolution penned by Associate Justice Andres B. Reyes, Jr. and concurred in by 10 other justices..
It explained: “In a demurrer to evidence, as in the case of Macapagal-Arroyo, the accused imposes a challenge on the sufficiency of the prosecution’s entire evidence.”
“This involves a determination of whether the evidence presented by the prosecution has established the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Should the trial court find the prosecution’s evidence insufficient in this regard, the grant of the demurrer to evidence is equivalent to the acquittal of the accused.”
The SC also argued that “the stage at which the accused may demur to the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence is during the trial on the merits itself-particularly, after the prosecution has rested its case.”
Ms. Napoles’s case, however, is still in the “hearing for the petition for bail in which the trial court does not sit to try the merits of the main case.”
Sought for comment during a Palace briefing, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra agreed with the SC’s decision.
“She cannot apply that (Ms. Arroyo’s case), because right now she is still in the bail hearing.”
But when her case proceeds to a trial proper, Ms. Napoles can take Ms. Arroyo’s route, Mr. Guevarra, a lawyer, said.
“Meaning, mayroon ng (there is a) trial proper on the merits of the case and the prosecution has already presented all its evidence against the accused.”
“Now, if the defense thinks that the evidence presented by the prosecution is insufficient to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt, that’s when she files a demurrer to evidence. And if that is granted that is tantamount to an acquittal. If that is denied, alright so it’s up to her, she can challenge it upstairs if she wants on the ground of grave abuse of discretion if need be. Well, she can take that through the way former President did it.”
Mr. Guevarra likewise stressed that Ms. Napoles’s case is different from Ms. Arroyo’s. “Of course, magkaiba naman ng kaso iyan, magkaiba naman ng ebidensiya na ipe-present diyan.”
(Of course, [Ms. Napoles’s] case is different. The evidence to be presented will also be different.)
“But that could happen if a demurrer to evidence is presented and (if) that’s granted, that’s acquittal,” he said further.