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DUTERTE TARGETS PHILIPPINE CHILDREN IN BID TO WIDEN DRUG WAR
[RELATED: More murders in Philippine drug war – rights group]


FEBRUARY 15 -© REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Boys undergoing drug rehabilitation attend a lesson inside a government run drug rehabilitation centre in Bicutan, Metro Manila.
Before Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs had even begun, allies of the Philippines president were quietly preparing for a wider offensive. On June 30, as Duterte was sworn in, they introduced a bill into the Philippine Congress that could allow children as young as nine to be targeted in a crackdown that has since claimed more than 7,600 lives. The bill proposes to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old to prevent what it calls "the pampering of youthful offenders who commit crimes knowing they can get away with it." "You can ask any policeman or anyone connected with the law enforcement: We produce a generation of criminals," Duterte said in a speech in Manila on December 12. Young children, he said, were becoming drug runners, thieves and rapists, and must be "taught to understand responsibility." READ MORE...RELATED, More murders in Philippine drug war – rights group...

ALSO: Gov’t - Janet innocent, may be state witness
[RELATED: Solgen - Opinion not meant to acquit Janet Napoles]
[RELATED(2): Palace dismisses views Duterte admin is protecting Napoles]


FEBRUARY 16 -The government wants justice done in the serious illegal detention case against alleged pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim-Napoles, Solicitor General Jose Calida said yesterday. Screengrab/Presidential Communications
She’s innocent and must be freed, but this is just an opinion submitted to the court, according to the chief state lawyer. The government wants justice done in the serious illegal detention case against alleged pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim-Napoles, Solicitor General Jose Calida said yesterday. “She should be acquitted,” Calida said. “It is very unfair if Janet Napoles will suffer incarceration for life for a crime she did not commit. That is a travesty of justice which my office cannot countenance.” Napoles is serving a 40-year sentence for serious illegal detention filed by her second cousin and former staff Benhur Luy. It was Luy who spilled the beans on Napoles’ allegedly skimming millions of pesos from projects bankrolled by lawmakers’ pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). READ MORE...RELATED,
Solgen: Opinion not meant to acquit Janet Napoles...RELATED(2) Palace dismisses views Duterte admin is protecting Napoles...

ALSO: Solgen wants more powers
[RELATED: Palace backs solgen on Napoles; Solgen not lawyering for her, acquittal on her detention no effect on plunder charges vs her]


FEBRUARY 18 -Solicitor General Jose Calida has submitted to the House of Representatives a draft bill that would abolish the OGCC and PCGG and transfer their powers to his office. File photo
As if his workload is not enough, controversial Solicitor General Jose Calida is seeking more powers from Congress. He wants to take over the authority and functions of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). Calida has submitted to the House of Representatives a draft bill that would abolish the OGCC and PCGG and transfer their powers to his office. The Office of the Solicitor General is the lawyer of the government, while OGCC serves as counsel for state corporations. As for the PCGG, the late president Corazon Aquino created it to recover billions in alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses. READ MORE...RELATED, Palace backs solgen on Napoles; Solgen not Napoles' lawyer, acquittal on illegal detention no effect on plunder charges vs her...

ALSO: Supreme Court vs Duterte's Solicitor General on Napoles case: Luy 'deprived of liberty'
[RELATED: Solgen seeks reversal of Napoles conviction]


FEBRUARY 16 -Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen penned the decision on the Janet Napoles' plea for certiorari. Philstar.com, file MANILA, Philippines (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism) — At a press conference on Wednesday in response to a PCIJ report on his office's manifestation recommending the acquittal of "pork-barrel queen" Janet Lim Napoles in the serious illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy, Solicitor General Jose Calida noted that his position assigns him the circumstance of serving as the 16th member of the Supreme Court. He also defended submitting the manifestation—dated Jan. 11, 2017 and received by the 13th Division of the Court of Appeals on Jan. 20, 2017—in part by saying that "when we look at the evidence, the transcript of records, there are many glaring instances which will support the acquittal of the accused." READ MORE...RELATED, Solgen seeks reversal of Napoles conviction...

ALSO: Court junks the daughter's, Jeane Napoles' petition vs tax evasion case


FEBRUARY 16 -MOM's GLORY DAYS Friends flank Jeane Napoles in this screencap from the video of her 21st birthday bash. File The Second Division of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) Thursday dismissed the civil case that Jeane Catherine Napoles filed against the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), over her repeated failure to attend the proceedings. In a short hearing Thursday afternoon, Second Division acting chairperson Associate Justice Caesar Casanova and substitute member Associate Justice Ma. Belen Ringpis-Liban granted in open court the manifestation of state prosecutor Niña Suzette Mendoza to dismiss Napoles' petition for review against the BIR due to her and her legal counsel's continued absence. Thursday marked the third time that Napoles and her lawyer failed to show up in the hearing of her own petition, which she filed in May 2016. READ MORE...


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Duterte targets Philippine children in bid to widen drug war


© REUTERS/Erik De Castro Boys undergoing drug rehabilitation attend a lesson inside a government run drug rehabilitation centre in Bicutan, Metro Manila.

MANILA, FEBRUARY 20, 2017 (REUTERS) 3/18 By Clare Baldwin and Andrew R.C. Marshall - Before Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs had even begun, allies of the Philippines president were quietly preparing for a wider offensive. On June 30, as Duterte was sworn in, they introduced a bill into the Philippine Congress that could allow children as young as nine to be targeted in a crackdown that has since claimed more than 7,600 lives.

The bill proposes to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old to prevent what it calls "the pampering of youthful offenders who commit crimes knowing they can get away with it."

"You can ask any policeman or anyone connected with the law enforcement: We produce a generation of criminals," Duterte said in a speech in Manila on December 12. Young children, he said, were becoming drug runners, thieves and rapists, and must be "taught to understand responsibility."

READ MORE...

The move to target children signals Duterte's determination to intensify his drug war, which faces outrage abroad and growing unease at home. The president's allies say his support in Congress will ensure the bill passes the House of Representatives by June.

The House would approve the bill "within six months," said Fredenil Castro, who co-authored the legislation with the speaker of the House, Pantaleon Alvarez. It might face opposition in the Senate, but would prevail because of Duterte's allies there, added Castro.

National police chief Ronald Dela Rosa recently announced that he was suspending anti-narcotics operations, which have killed more than 2,500 people, while the force rids itself of corrupt cops. The announcement came after it emerged last month that drug squad officers had killed a South Korean businessman at national police headquarters.

The killing of drug suspects has continued, albeit at a slower pace, with most following the pattern of killings that police have blamed on vigilantes. Human rights monitors believe vigilantes have killed several thousand people and operate in league with the police – a charge the police deny.

Duterte has signaled he intends to continue his drug war. In late January, he said the campaign would run until his presidency ends in 2022.

'IN CAHOOTS WITH DRUG USERS'

Lowering the age of criminality was justified, Castro told Reuters, because many children were "in cahoots with drug users, with drug pushers, and others who are related to the drug trade." He said he based his support for the bill on what he saw from his car and at churches – children begging and pickpocketing. "For me, there isn't any evidence more convincing than what I see in every day of my life," he said.

A controversial bill to restore the death penalty, another presidential priority, is also expected to pass the House of Representatives by mid-year, according to Duterte allies in Congress.

Supporters of the bill to lower the age of criminality say holding young children liable will discourage drug traffickers from exploiting them. Opponents, including opposition lawmakers and human rights groups, are appalled at a move they say will harm children without evidence it will reduce crime.

There is also resistance inside Duterte's administration. A member of Duterte's cabinet who heads the Department of Social Welfare and Development opposes the move. And a branch of the police responsible for protecting women and children disputes the claim that children are heavily involved in the drug trade – a claim not supported by official data.

Opponents warn that lowering the age of criminality would further strain a juvenile justice system that is struggling to cope. At worst, they say, with a drug war raging nationwide, the bill could legitimize the killing of minors.

"What will stop them from targeting children?" said Karina Teh, a local politician and child rights advocate in Manila. "They are using the war on drugs to criminalize children."

IN THE FIRING LINE

The drug-war death toll includes at least 29 minors who were either shot by unidentified gunmen or accidentally killed during police operations from July to November 2016, according to the Children's Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC) and the Network Against Killings in the Philippines, both Manila-based advocacy groups.

Dela Rosa said the Philippine National Police "fully supports" the new bill. It is "true and supported by data" that minors are used by drug traffickers because they can't be held criminally liable, the police chief said in a submission to the House of Representatives.

Some police officers working on the streets agree with Dela Rosa. In Manila's slums, children as young as six act as lookouts for dealers, shouting "The enemy is coming!" when police approach, said Cecilio Tomas, an anti-narcotics officer in the city. By their early teens, some become delivery boys and then dealers and users, said Tomas.

Salvador Panelo, Duterte's chief legal counsel, said the bill would protect children by stopping criminals from recruiting them. "They will not become targets simply because they will no longer be involved," he said.

Child rights experts say the legislation could put children in the firing line. They point to the deadly precedent set in the southern city of Davao, where Duterte pioneered his hard-line tactics as mayor. The Coalition Against Summary Execution, a Davao-based rights watchdog, documented 1,424 vigilante-style killings in the city between 1998 and 2015. Of those victims, 132 were 17 or younger.

For all but three years during that period, Duterte was either Davao's mayor or vice-mayor. He denied any involvement in the killings.

CONTRADICTORY EVIDENCE

Althea Barbon was one of the children killed in the current nationwide drug war. The four year old was fatally wounded in August when police in an anti-narcotics operation shot at her father, the two Manila-based advocacy groups said. Unidentified gunmen shot dead Ericka Fernandez, 17, in a Manila alley on October 26, police said. Her bloody Barbie doll was collected as evidence. And on December 28, three boys, aged 15 or 16, were killed in Manila by what police said were motorbike-riding gunmen.

If the bill passes, the Philippines won't be the only country where the age of criminality is low. In countries including England, Northern Ireland and Switzerland it is 10, according to the website of the Child Rights International Network, a research and advocacy group. In Scotland, children as young as eight can be held criminally responsible, but the government is in the process of raising the age limit to 12.

Critics of the Philippines' bill say lower age limits are largely found in countries where the legal systems, detention facilities and rehabilitation programs are more developed.

Statistics from the police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the government's top anti-narcotics body, appear to contradict the Duterte camp's claim that there is a large number of young children deeply involved in the drug trade.

There were 24,000 minors among the 800,000 drug users and dealers who had registered with the authorities by November 30, according to police statistics. But less than two percent of those minors, or about 400 children, were delivering or selling drugs. Only 12 percent, or 2,815, were aged 15 or younger. Most of the 24,000 minors were listed as drug users.

The number of minors involved in the drug trade is "just a small portion," said Noel Sandoval, deputy head of the Women and Children's Protection Center (WCPC), the police department that compiled the data.

The WCPC is not pushing to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility, said Sandoval, but if the age is to be lowered, his department recommends a minimum age of 12, not 9.

Between January 2011 and July 2016, 956 children aged six to 17 were "rescued nationwide from illegal drug activity," according to PDEA. They were mostly involved with marijuana and crystal methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug also known as shabu, and were handed over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Of these, only 80 were under the age of 15.

MORE DETENTIONS

Asked for evidence that younger children are involved in the drug trade, Duterte's legal counsel Panelo said the president had data from "all intelligence agencies." Panelo declined to disclose those numbers.

Among the opponents of the bill is a member of Duterte's cabinet, Judy Taguiwalo, secretary of the DSWD. The legislation runs counter to scientific knowledge about child development and would result not in lower crime rates but in more children being detained, Taguiwalo wrote in a letter to the House of Representatives in October.

Hidden by a high wall topped with metal spikes, the Valenzuela youth detention center in northern Manila is already operating at twice its capacity. Its 89 boys eat meals in shifts – the canteen can't hold them all at once – and sleep on mats that spill out of the spartan dorms and into the hallways.

The government-run center, which currently houses boys aged 13 to 17 for up to a year, is considered a model facility in the Philippines. Even so, said Lourdes Gardoce, a social worker at the Valenzuela home, "It's a big adjustment on our part if we have to cater to kids as young as nine."

(Reporting by Clare Baldwin and Andrew R.C. Marshall. Edited by David Lague and Peter Hirschberg.)

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RELATED FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

More murders in Philippine drug war – rights group Published February 18, 2017 4:09am By CECIL MORELLA, AFP


Amnesty International campaigner Wilnor Papa, left, gestures during a video news conference PEACE&FREEDOM BLOG

MANILA, Philippines - Shadowy assassins are still killing poor Filipinos, despite a police withdrawal from Rodrigo Duterte's deadly drug war, a rights group said Friday, as Manila filed criminal charges against the president's top critic.

Duterte ordered the police to step back at the end of January after a seven-month campaign that had left 6,485 people dead, many in unexplained circumstances.

The latest tally given to AFP on Friday showed an extra 146 people had died since the January 31 stand-down was ordered, which rights groups said showed extrajudicial killings were continuing.

"The targets are still the same, as far as we are concerned: people linked to drugs and who live in poor neighborhoods," Wilnor Papa, campaign official for the Philippine branch of Amnesty International, told AFP.

Papa said unknown assailants were now killing between nine and 10 people daily. This compared with about 30 people a day being killed by police and unknown assailants when officers were still leading the crackdown.

In one new shooting incident covered by an AFP photographer, police found four men dead inside a shanty in northern Manila before dawn on Thursday, in a scene very similar to those covered at the height of the drug war.

Witnesses said unknown suspects broke into the house and started shooting, while three other men were shot dead in separate incidents elsewhere in the same district that night, local police told AFP.

Duterte ordered all police to stop prosecuting his drug war after anti-drug officers kidnapped a South Korean businessman then murdered him inside the national police headquarters as part of an extortion racket, according to an official investigation.

But Duterte promised that the war would continue and more addicts, as well as traffickers, would be killed as he sought to eradicate drugs in society.

‘Butchery of the regime’

Although the anti-drugs campaign is popular among voters, campaigners say it has granted a license to kill to anyone with a grudge and a gun.

But critics are finding it increasingly tough to get a hearing in the Philippines.

On Friday the government filed criminal charges against Senator Leila de Lima, a justice secretary in the previous government and former human rights commissioner who is one of Duterte's most vocal opponents.

The charges allege she ran a drug trafficking ring using criminals in the country's largest prison when she was justice secretary.

De Lima said in a statement that the charges, which could land her a 30-year jail term, were solely aimed at silencing her opposition.

"If the loss of my freedom is the price I have to pay for standing up against the butchery of the Duterte regime, then it is a price I am willing to pay," she said, describing the charges as "false".

De Lima has not yet been arrested.

In an earlier report, Amnesty said the police were guilty of systemic human rights abuses in the drug war, including shooting dead defenseless people, paying assassins to murder addicts and stealing from those they killed.

It also said police were being paid by their superiors to kill.

Duterte has since ordered the much smaller Drug Enforcement Agency to lead the drug crackdown, with the support of the military.

Derrick Carreon, spokesman for the 1,791-member drug agency, told AFP there had been far fewer killings by authorities since it took charge, without giving figures.

"(But) there is no point in comparing these figures because the police is a much larger organization, capable of conducting more operations," Carreon said, adding the military had mostly acted as observers so far.

The national police force has 160,000 officers. — Agence France-Presse


PHILSTAR

Gov’t: Janet innocent, may be state witness By Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 16, 2017 - 12:00am 0 6 googleplus0 0


The government wants justice done in the serious illegal detention case against alleged pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim-Napoles, Solicitor General Jose Calida said yesterday. Screengrab/Presidential Communications

MANILA, Philippines - She’s innocent and must be freed, but this is just an opinion submitted to the court, according to the chief state lawyer.

The government wants justice done in the serious illegal detention case against alleged pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim-Napoles, Solicitor General Jose Calida said yesterday.

“She should be acquitted,” Calida said. “It is very unfair if Janet Napoles will suffer incarceration for life for a crime she did not commit. That is a travesty of justice which my office cannot countenance.”

Napoles is serving a 40-year sentence for serious illegal detention filed by her second cousin and former staff Benhur Luy. It was Luy who spilled the beans on Napoles’ allegedly skimming millions of pesos from projects bankrolled by lawmakers’ pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

READ MORE...

Calida said he and his team in the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) reviewed the evidence presented by the camps of Napoles and Luy. They concluded that “the evidence presented does not support the conviction beyond reasonable doubt” of the detained businesswoman.

He, however, clarified that the OSG was merely presenting its observation on the serious illegal detention case after it was asked to comment and file its pleadings on the case.

“This is our opinion. It’s an opinion that based on the facts that we reviewed that the quantum of evidence is lacking to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” he said.

Calida also pointed out that the OSG did not file a manifestation to acquit Napoles, but only to inform the Court of Appeals (CA) of its opinion on the matter.

“But it is not for us to say, it is for the Court of Appeals,” he said.

Commenting on Calida’s opinion, Luy’s lawyer Raymond Joseph Ian Mendoza said the issues raised by the OSG “were mere reiterations of Napoles’ position on the case which was already denied by the Makati RTC when it convicted her in April 2015.”

In a 10-page manifestation of the OSG on the serious illegal detention case against Napoles, the OSG noted that Luy “was not actually restrained or deprived of his liberty during the period of his alleged detention.”

Assistant Solicitor General Henry Angeles and Associate Solicitor Armand Morales signed the manifestation.

“When we look at the evidence, there are many glaring instances which will support the acquittal of the accused (Napoles),” Calida said.

Calida argued that Luy should have made an effort to escape from detention if he were truly illegally detained from Dec. 20, 2015 to March 22, 2016 at the Bahay ni San Jose, a retreat house in Makati City.

During the period, the OSG said Luy even regularly attended mass and acti-vities that ordinary people in a spiritual retreat would normally do. “He would read a bible, he would jot notes, he participated in the mass,” Calida said.

“Benhur Luy was in the retreat house for about three months. He had access to a cellphone, in fact, he was using this cellphone according to the priests who were there, he could have communicated to anybody out there that he was illegally detained,” he pointed out.

Calida also noted that Luy did not inform his family about his detention when he had a chance to see them on Dec. 24, 2012 at the Heritage Memorial Park; Jan. 9, 2013 and Feb. 23, 2013 at the Pacific Plaza Towers in Taguig City.

He also said that Luy was able to get out of the retreat house on Jan. 22, 2013 along with Napoles’ brother Reynaldo Lim and several priests for dinner in Makati and even bought foodstuff in a supermarket.

The OSG also cited an instance where Luy was “rescued” on March 22, 2013 at South Garden Unit, Pacific Plaza in Taguig City after he allegedly refused to go with National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents.

NBI agent Rodante Berou told the court that he did not see Luy being physically restrained and that Lim was unarmed.

The OSG also noted that CCTV recording during the alleged rescue of Luy showed “incontrovertible support” that he did not go with the NBI agents.

“Indeed, the conduct and behavior of Benhur Luy during the period of his alleged detention belie the fact that he was detained or deprived of his liberty, contrary to the findings of the trial court in its April 14, 2015 decision,” the OSG said. – With Elizabeth Marcelo, Evelyn Macairan

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RELATED FROM THE TRIBUNE

Solgen: Opinion not meant to acquit Janet Napoles Written by Tribune Wires Thursday, 16 February 2017 00:00 By Julius Leonen


Whistleblower Benhur Luy and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles appear at the Senate hearing on the scheme that siphoned legislative funds to fake organizations in April 2014. Senate staff/Released, file Updated February 15, 2017 - 4:08pm PHILSTAR FILE

CALIDA SAYS LUY NOT DETAINED AGAINST HIS WILL

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) submitted an opinion that the Court of Appeals (CA) sought which stated that Benhur Luy, who was a complainant against P10-billion pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim-Napoles in a serious illegal detention case, was not constrained against his will during his alleged detention and was not a recommendation for Napoles’ acquittal, Solicitor General Jose Calida said yesterday.

Calida was reacting to a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) article yesterday morning which stated that the OSG had moved to acquit Napoles in the case filed by Luy against her for charges of serious illegal detention.

It was reported in the PCIJ’s article headlined “Duterte’s SolGen moves to acquit Napoles in illegal detention of Luy” that the OSG said that it believes Luy was not detained against his own will, contrary to his claims.

In the 10-page manifestation submitted January 11, 2017, it was stated that “Benhur Luy was actually left unrestrained in Bahay ni San Jose (an orphanage and retreat house) from December 20, 2014 to March 22, 2015.”The manifestation stated that Luy even “had his cellphone with him and was seen and heard talking to someone” when he attended Church masses in Bahay ni San Jose, suggesting that “indeed, Benhur Luy comforted himself as a free man inside” the retreat house.

It was also reported in the article that the OSG had recommended the acquittal of Napoles for the crime of serious illegal detention of Luy, who is her second cousin.
In a press conference yesterday, Calida denied that his office had sought the acquittal of the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind, stressing that they filed the manifestation as an opinion given to the Court of Appeals (CA).

“We did not file our manifestation for the purpose of acquitting the person. (This was manifested) to let the CA know what our opinion is on the matter,” Calida said.

“It is up to the justices of the CA to assess the weight of our pleading, and modesty aside, the OSG is considered as the 16th Justice of the SC because we are partners with the Judiciary,” Calida said.


Meanwhile, Luy’s legal counsel, lawyer Raji Mendoza, found the Solicitor General’s manifestation surprising, calling it “mysterious.” He added that they were unaware that the apellate court had requested a comment from the OSG.

“Those issues have been fully answered to the satisfaction of the trial court. We are just as surprised as everybody but we have yet to officially receive a copy of the OSG’s mysterious comment,” Mendoza said.

“As a first impression, we believe that the Solicitor General’s comment is a superfluity, as we are not aware of any order from the CA requiring the OSG to file the subject manifestation. We are not aware of any recent developments that would have necessitated the filing of such Manifestation,” Mendoza said.

CONVICTION

Mendoza said he hopes Calida’s manifestation will not affect the conviction of Napoles in the serious illegal detention case.

“We can draw a number of conclusions from this comment but we certainly hope that it does not adversely affect the serious illegal detention case with the CA as well as the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund scam) cases before the Sandiganbayan,” Mendoza said.

Comment was asked — Calida

Calida, however, said the manifestation was filed “in compliance with a request for a comment from his office regarding the serious illegal detention charges filed against Napoles.”

“The OSG is the defender of the Republic and at the same time the tribune of the people. I am a servant of the law and I took an oath to uphold the rule of law,” Calida said.

“Our office was asked to comment and file our pleading, so as we do in all cases assigned to us,” Calida said.

The Solicitor General also clarified that the Duterte administration in no way influenced the manifestation filed before the appellate court. It was reported in an online news outlet that Napoles’ lawyers were Duterte supporters.

“Justice will not send an innocent person to the gallows. (I am bounded by) my duty to state the facts. The persons involved are immaterial to us,” Calida said.

Meanwhile, Calida affirmed his office’s manifestation, explaining that the trial court that had convicted Napoles for serious illegal detention had “erred.” Calida said that there were no witnesses who testified about Luy’s detention.

“The RTC erred in convicting the accused Janet Lim-Napoles for the crime of serious illegal detention,” Calida said.

“When we look at the evidence, the transcript of records that are many instances that will support the acquittal of the accused,” Calida said.

“Benhur was not restrained inside, (and there were) no witnesses,” Calida said. “During the detention, Benhur was able to see his family three times. He even shouted to his brother that he has not been kidnapped,” he said.

In addition, Calida said that “injustice was done to Janet Lim-Napoles.” He, however, said the comment only pertained to the serious illegal detention case.

“The serious illegal detention case has nothing to do with the cases of Janet Napoles on the PDAF case. These are two separate matters,” Calida said.

Calida also rejected insinuations that Napoles had formed a deal with the Duterte administration.

“We are talking about the rule of law. My interest is to see to it that justice is done,” Calida said.

“I don’t know (where) they got that idea. The President has nothing to do with this. I’m just doing my job. President Duterte does not instruct his cabinet members what to do,” Calida said.

Leila on offensive

Senator Leila de Lima raised a howl over the reported OSG move.

“It’s questionable. I find it suspicious,” De Lima said when sought by reporters for her reaction, having been at the forefront of the investigation when she was still the secretary of the Department of Justice (DoJ) on the pork barrel scandal and in the filing of cases against Napoles and other co-accused.

“What were the grounds invoked by the SolGen? Was the DoJ consulted? An acquittal is an acquittal,” she said.

While De Lima said that it’s still too early for her to impute motives behind the move of the OSG, she expressed fears over the possibility of overturning the cases filed by the previous administration against those involved in the pork scam and eventually have her linked to the misuse of PDAF funds of lawmakers.

“Maybe it might be me again, I handled the investigation of that case, I oversaw the filing of cases by the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), That was the case in the Bilibid (National Bilibid Prison drug trade scandal), I uncovered the anomaly then they use it against me. That may just be done in this case, it might be used against me and now turn me into the PDAF queen,” she said.

The senator, in assailing the moves of the OSG, said the Duterte administration is proving itself to be on the side of every high profile crook and scoundrel the past administration was able to put in jail.

“From the ‘tribune of the people’ to the tribune of convicted criminals,’ this is probably the lowest point ever that the OSG has reached in its years of existence,” she said.

“The professional career lawyers of the OSG must be cringing at this latest stunt of their SolGen,” the senator said, referring to Solicitor General Jose Calida, who once given her the tag of being the public enemy no. 1 due to her alleged involvement in illegal drugs trade.

“I cannot imagine what justification the OSG has come up with this time in order to sabotage the criminal conviction the DoJ has successfully secured in the past administration,” she said.

Considering that Napoles is the no.1 enabler of plunderers in government, De Lima said “we might as well dissolve our justice system and declare this government a government of criminals, where the innocent are imprisoned and the criminals liberated.

“Maybe next time they will be setting free the convicted drug lords who testified against me. Under these circumstances, it is indeed an honor to be imprisoned under this regime of criminal coddlers,” she said.

The senator who was at the forefront of the investigation on the so-called pork barrel scandal in the previous administration and supervised the filing of charges not only those involving Napoles but even some lawmakers that included former Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., questioned the grounds being invoked by the OSG in moving for Napoles’ acquittal.

“An acquittal is an acquittal? To me that’s a disturbing development,” she said.

The senator said that they have an airtight case against Napoles as there are enough evidence to back up the charges against her.

Palace not rescuing Janet

The Duterte administration is not letting Napoles off the hook despite the Office of the Solicitor General’s (OSG) move to appeal her life sentence on illegal detention.

In a phone patch interview with Palace reporters, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said that Calida’s surprising comment was only based on the law.

“The administration of Mr. Duterte will always follow what the rules, the laws, and the Constitution say regardless of who are the persons involved whether that person is a controversial figure or a non-controversial figure,” Panelo said.

“We have to abide by [the OSG’s] position, unless independent entities can show us that the decision is contrary to the evidence and the records of the case,” he added.

Panelo denied that the President made specific instructions regarding the move.

“The President does not give any instruction to any department as to what it will do. He has repeatedly said. Pinapabayaan niya ang bawat departamento ng kanilang—basta naaayon sa batas,” the President’s lawyer said.

Saying that Calida has the credibility to call out what’s wrong in the case filed by Luy, Panelo insisted that there is no sufficient evidence to keep the infamous businesswoman behind bars.

Panelo challenged critics to provide bodies of evidence that would compel the top state lawyer to change its stand on Napoles.

“I will coincide with what the OSG has stated because they are the agency that looked over the records of the case, unless you can show me evidence that will say anything contrary to the position,” Panelo said.

Months back, Mr. Duterte said that he wants the Department of Justice (DoJ) to re-open the priority development assistance funds (PDAF) scam that has implicated Napoles and legislator-cohorts on the premise that there were names excluded allegedly due to political accomodation. Ted Tuvera, Angie M. Rosales

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RELATED(2) FROM PHILSTAR

Palace dismisses views Duterte admin is protecting Napoles By Alexis Romero (philstar.com) | Updated February 19, 2017 - 7:06pm 1 49 googleplus0 0


Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella laughed when asked in a radio interview if the Duterte administration is now protecting alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles. File

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang Sunday laughed off notions that the Duterte administration is now protecting alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Napoles after the solicitor general recommended her acquittal on the crime of serious illegal detention.

Asked during an interview with radio station dzRB if the government is now protecting Napoles, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said: “Seriously?”

Abella laughed and then remarked: “I doubt that. Thank you, next question.”

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has recommended to the Court of Appeals the acquittal of Napoles for serious illegal detention of her second cousin, pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.

The move has drawn suspicions that the government has struck a deal with Napoles, who has tagged several politicians in the alleged diversion of congressional funds to non-existent projects and groups.

In 2015, the Makati Regional Trial Court sentenced Napoles to a jail term of up to 40 years for serious illegal detention.

The OSG, however, believes that the court erred in convicting Napoles. According to Solicitor General Jose Calida, there were “glaring instances” that would support Napoles’ acquittal. He said Luy was not restrained in a retreat house and even met with his family three times.

Abella kept mum on insinuations that the Duterte administration has entered into an agreement with Napoles.

“I don’t know, I am not privy to those matters ‘no. Pero kung may usap-usapan sila hindi natin alam iyan (If there were such talks, we do not know about that),” he said.

“But definitely the Sol Gen (solicitor general) viewed these matters and that’s what he decided on.”

Officials previously claimed that Calida was not acting as a lawyer for Napoles when he made the recommendation to the Court of Appeals.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo had also claimed that President Rodrigo Duterte did not have a hand in Calida’s move.

He had said the administration would comply with the law regardless of who are the persons involved.

Officials also expressed optimism that a reversal of Napoles’ conviction would not affect her plunder cases.


PHILSTAR

Solgen wants more powers By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 18, 2017 - 12:00am 1 11 googleplus0 0


Solicitor General Jose Calida has submitted to the House of Representatives a draft bill that would abolish the OGCC and PCGG and transfer their powers to his office. File photo

MANILA, Philippines - As if his workload is not enough, controversial Solicitor General Jose Calida is seeking more powers from Congress.

He wants to take over the authority and functions of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).

Calida has submitted to the House of Representatives a draft bill that would abolish the OGCC and PCGG and transfer their powers to his office.

The Office of the Solicitor General is the lawyer of the government, while OGCC serves as counsel for state corporations. As for the PCGG, the late president Corazon Aquino created it to recover billions in alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses.

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Calida has become controversial for his support for the appeal of suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles for the reversal of her conviction of the crime of illegally detaining her former aide and relative Benhur Luy, a key witness in the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel scam cases.

Senators and congressmen have criticized the government’s lawyer for intervening in the case and supporting Napoles’ appeal.

They said Calida’s unwarranted intervention would affect the pork barrel cases that involve billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money.

House leaders said yesterday they would consider Calida’s proposal for his office to take over the functions of OGCC and PCGG.

ABOLITION OF OGCC, PCGG

During a hearing of the committee on good government this week, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he was inclined to support the proposed abolition of OGCC.

“It has not won a single case for the government. It has not done its job well,” he said.

Alvarez made the statement during the inquiry on the P3.2-billion casino space lease contract the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) signed in November 2014 with Vanderwood Management Corp.

He said former Pagcor officials led by chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr. advanced P234 million to Vanderwood for the space in a hotel that was yet to be built and which up to now is still not finished.

The hotel is being constructed at the former site of the Army and Navy Club near the Luneta Park in Manila.

The Manila city government owns the property and leased it to Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corp. for P300,000 a month.

Oceanville, in turn, sublet it for the same amount to Vanderwood, which leased 6,500 square meters to Pagcor for P13 million a month.

The P234 million, which Naguiat has admitted was advanced to Vanderwood, represented rentals for 12 months and security deposit.

“The casino space you leased is not there. In effect, what you are leasing is just air,” Alvarez told the former Pagcor chief.

He faulted Naguiat and the OGCC for what he described as “a contract that is grossly disadvantageous to the government.”

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Palace backs solgen on Napoles By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2017 - 12:00am 5 45 googleplus0 0


Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Solicitor General Jose Calida believes there were no grounds for holding Napoles liable for serious illegal detention. File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The solicitor general is not acting as a lawyer for accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles when he sought her acquittal on the crime of serious illegal detention, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Solicitor General Jose Calida believes there were no grounds for holding Napoles liable for serious illegal detention.

“He’s not lawyering for Napoles, I think. He’s just simply trying to correct what he thinks, what he sees, what he perceives is something that needs to be rectified,” Abella said in a press briefing.

When reminded that the illegal detention case is related to Napoles’ plunder charge since she was convicted of detaining Benhur Luy to prevent him from exposing the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam, Abella said, “I don’t know if they had a conversation regarding that, but the President trusts his alter ego’s decision.”

Napoles is currently detained at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City after being convicted of the serious illegal detention case filed by Luy, her nephew and former employee, who became the primary state witness in the pork barrel scam.

Abella also stressed Calida’s move does not change Duterte’s stance against corruption. He noted the plunder and illegal detention charges are “separate items.”

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo is confident that Napoles’ acquittal on her illegal detention case would not affect the proceedings on her plunder charges.

Panelo also denied that the administration is going soft on Napoles but is just upholding the rule of law.

Abella likewise belied notions that Duterte’s ties with Napoles’ lawyers had prodded the solicitor general to seek her acquittal.

“I think that’s what exactly they are: speculations,” he said.

“I don’t have the imagination to go into that area – connections,” Abella said.

Lanee Cui-David, a former lawyer of Napoles, has been appointed deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. She and her husband Stephen are graduates of the San Beda College of Law, where Duterte also finished his law degree.

‘Government of criminals’ Sen. Leila de Lima assailed Calida’s move, saying the country might as well “dissolve its justice system” if the solicitor general would succeed in freeing Napoles.

DE LIMA

De Lima, a critic of the Duterte administration and who was justice secretary when the PDAF scam broke out and Napoles was jailed, said it would be best to declare this “government a government of criminals where the innocent are imprisoned and the criminals liberated.”

In a statement, De Lima said the administration now appears to be bent on taking the side of every high-profile crook and scoundrel the past administration was able to jail.

“I cannot imagine what justification the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) has come up with this time in order to sabotage the criminal conviction the DOJ (Department of Justice) has successfully secured in the past administration,” De Lima said.

“From the ‘tribune of the people’ to the ‘tribune of convicted criminals,’ this is probably the lowest point ever that the OSG has reached in its years of existence,” she added.

De Lima said it should be determined if the OSG consulted with the DOJ on the issue because if it did not, then this could be a very serious matter.

She aired her concern that the PDAF cases could be affected by this move by the OSG.

“Of course this is a different case, this is serious illegal detention but the entire PDAF scam started with this illegal detention,” De Lima said.

With the move of the OSG, De Lima said that it would not be farfetched to think that the next persons to be set free would be the convicted drug lords who testified against her.

“Under these circumstances, it is indeed an honor to be imprisoned under this regime of criminal coddlers,” she said.

Manipulation

But Calida sees manipulation in the serious illegal detention case filed against Napoles that sent her behind bars in April 2015.

“Even Benhur (Luy) is saying he was not detained. So what is the implication there? Somebody manipulated to jail Napoles. Now, why did they do it?” Calida asked.

Luy was allegedly detained at a retreat house in Makati City so he could not testify on the anomalies involving the misuse of PDAF by funneling the money though bogus non-government organizations (NGOs).

Napoles supposedly masterminded the scheme in connivance with lawmakers and other government officials.

Luy later became a state witness in the PDAF cases filed against Napoles and many other personalities allegedly involved in the scam.

Calida pointed out someone wanted to put Napoles behind bars probably to stop her from spilling the beans on her allegedly anomalous transactions with high-ranking government officials.

“Because if you are in detention, your life is at risk,” Calida said.

Calida said his office would look into the motives of the people who made Napoles suffer in jail for a crime she did not commit.

He, however, could not say yet who these people are.

He said the DOJ first dismissed the case filed against Napoles but this was later reversed by De Lima.

The OSG filed a 10-page manifestation before the Court of Appeals (CA) after it was asked to review and assess the serious illegal detention case of Napoles.

In the manifestation, the OSG said there were instances that would show Luy was not illegally detained or deprived of his freedom.

But Calida said their manifestation does not mean to acquit Napoles, but only to inform the CA of their opinion on the case.

He also downplayed criticisms that Duterte ordered him to review the case of Napoles. “President Duterte does not instruct his Cabinet members and officers what to do,” he said.

He also said the government has no deal with the camp of Napoles.

CTA junks Jeane Napoles’ case

In another development, the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) Second Division dismissed the civil case that Napoles’ daughter Jeane Catherine filed against the BIR due to her repeated failure to attend the proceedings.

In a short hearing yesterday afternoon, Second Division acting chairman Associate Justice Caesar Casanova and substitute member Associate Justice Ma. Belen Ringpis-Liban granted in open court the manifestation of state prosecutor Niña Suzette Mendoza to dismiss Jeane’s petition for review against the BIR due to her and her legal counsel’s continued absence.

Yesterday marked the third time that Jeane and her lawyer failed to show up at the hearing of her own petition, which she filed in May 2016.

Jeane’s camp has also yet to submit before the court the affidavits of her intended witnesses while the prosecution has already submitted the affidavit of its sole witness on Sept. 23, 2016.

Because of the repeated postponement of the hearing caused by Jeane’s absence, the court ruled to no longer set another trial date and instead dismissed the case outright.

Jeane’s petition for review stemmed from the BIR’s assessment that she has P17.46 million in tax liabilities to the government in 2011, the year she supposedly bought a posh condominium unit at Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles, California worth $1.2 million (about P54 million).

The BIR’s assessment became the basis of the DOJ in filing tax evasion cases against Jeane in 2015, which are now pending before the CTA Third Division.

She was charged with violations of Sections 254 (attempting to evade taxes) and 255 (failure to file an income tax) of the National Internal Revenue Code.

In her petition for review, Jeane said the BIR erred in its assessment as she did not have any legitimate source of income in 2011 because she was just a student at the time. She also claimed that the condominium unit in the US was purchased by her parents though placed under her name. – Marvin Sy, Robertzon Ramirez, Elizabeth Marcelo


PHILSTAR

Supreme Court vs Duterte's Solicitor General on Napoles case: Luy 'deprived of liberty' By Malou Mangahas (philstar.com) | Updated February 16, 2017 - 4:00pm 1 229 googleplus0 0

MANILA - Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen penned the decision on the Janet Napoles' plea for certiorari. Philstar.com, file MANILA, Philippines (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism) — At a press conference on Wednesday in response to a PCIJ report on his office's manifestation recommending the acquittal of "pork-barrel queen" Janet Lim Napoles in the serious illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy, Solicitor General Jose Calida noted that his position assigns him the circumstance of serving as the 16th member of the Supreme Court.

He also defended submitting the manifestation—dated Jan. 11, 2017 and received by the 13th Division of the Court of Appeals on Jan. 20, 2017—in part by saying that "when we look at the evidence, the transcript of records, there are many glaring instances which will support the acquittal of the accused."

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But the manifestation digresses from how the body that Calida says he is the 16th member of has evaluated and ruled on precisely the same case.

Six months earlier, on July 13, 2016, the Second Division of the Supreme Court had denied the "Petition for Review on Certiorari with Application for a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction filed by petitioner Janet Lim Napoles."

The decision noted that the petition had "(assailed) the Court of Appeals Decision dated March 26, 2014 and Resolution dated July 8, 2014, which found no grave abuse of discretion in the filing of an information for serious illegal detention against (Napoles) and the subsequent issuance of a warrant for her arrest."

But among the high court's conclusions was that "Napoles has been found guilty of serious illegal detention with proof beyond reasonable doubt, a quantum of evidence higher than probable cause. Resolving whether there was probable cause in the filing of information before the trial court and in the issuance of an arrest warrant would be 'of no practical use and value'."


LEONEN

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen penned the decision. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio (chairperson of the Second Division), Associate Justice Arturo Brion, and Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo concurred. Associate Justice Jose Mendoza was on official leave.

Under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure/Rules of Court adopted by the Supreme Court, a Petition for Certiorari may be filed "when any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered annulling or modifying the proceedings of such tribunal, board or officer, and granting such incidental reliefs as law and justice may require."

NAPOLES' RESPONDENTS

Napoles had named the following as respondents in her petition: "Hon. Secretary Leila De Lima, Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, And Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore M. Villanueva, In Their Capacities As Officers Of The Department Of Justice; Hon. Elmo M. Alameda, In His Capacity As Presiding Judge Of The Regional Trial Court Of Makati, Branch 150, National Bureau Of Investigation (NBI); Arturo F. Luy, Gertrudes K. Luy, Annabelle Luy-Reario, and Benhur K. Luy."

The petition for certiorari was not the first that Napoles had filed with the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. She had filed at least two such petitions previously for the same case.

Then last September, Napoles' lawyers filed a "reply brief" in which "the appellant reiterated her argument that the essential element of deprivation of liberty is absent and wanting in this case."

This apparently led to the OSG's recent manifestation that has caught many people—including officials in the executive and judicial branches—by surprise.

At the Wednesday press conference, Solicitor General Calida said that, "it is my well-considered opinion and that of my assistants that the RTC (Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150) erred in convicting Napoles."

The OSG had furnished the Makati RTC and the lawyers of Napoles a copy of its January 2017 manifestation, but not the lawyers of Benhur Luy.

CALIDA: FACTS BELIED LUY'S 'DEPRIVED OF LIBERTY'

According to Calida, Luy's behavior during his three-month alleged detention by Napoles at the retreat house run by priests close to Napoles, and at the Napoles family residence "belies the fact that he was actually detained or deprived of his liberty."

"With facts like these," he said, "can you in conscience say that she (Napoles) should be convicted for the crime of serious illegal detention?"

In Calida's mind, Napoles had become "a victim of injustice" and that "it is very unfair if Janet Napoles will suffer incarceration for life for a crime she did not commit. That is a travesty of justice which my office cannot countenance."

Yet, the same matters that seemingly still bother the Solicitor General had already been discussed and reviewed at length by the Supreme Court's second division last July. After examination of the records of the case, the high court ended up denying Napoles's petition for certiorari, issuing a 16-page ruling.

On the matter of "whether the Court of Appeals erred in finding no grave abuse of discretion: first, in filing an information for serious illegal detention against Napoles; and, second, in the issuance of a warrant for her arrest," the Supreme Court decision stated: • "This Petition must be denied for being moot and academic. In any case, the Court of Appeals did not err in dismissing the Petition for Certiorari. There was no grave abuse of discretion either in the filing of information in court or in the issuance of the arrest warrant against Napoles."

On the filing of the serious illegal detention case against Napoles, the Supreme Court decision stated:

• "There was no grave abuse of discretion in the filing of Information against Napoles. The Review Resolution sufficiently explained that during the preliminary investigation stage, there was probable cause to believe that Napoles and Lim, her brother, illegally deprived Benhur Luy of his liberty:

• "[T]he undersigned hereby rules that there is probable cause that respondents committed the crime of Serious Illegal Detention and should be held for trial. Relative thereto, it should be noted that the crime of Serious Illegal Detention has the following elements:

• "the offender is a private individual;

• "he kidnaps or detains another or in any other manner deprives the latter of his liberty;

• "the act of detention or kidnapping is illegal; and

• "in the commission of the offense, any of the following circumstances are present: (a) the kidnapping or detention lasts more than 3 days; or (b) it is committed by simulating public authority; or (c) any serious physical injuries are inflicted upon the person kidnapped or detained or threats to kill him are made; or (d) the person kidnapped or detained is a minor, female, or a public officer.

• "Relative to the instant case, there is no question regarding the first element, as both respondents are private individuals. There is no allegation to the contrary that respondents [Reynald] Lim and Janet Lim Napoles are private indiv[i]duals.

• "The issue in this case actually revolves around the second element of the crime, which is the question of whether complainant Benhur Luy was actually deprived of his liberty...."

On whether Benhur Luy "was actually deprived of his liberty," the Supreme Court decision stated:

• "It appears that there is sufficient evidence to establish that complainant Benhur Luy was actually deprived of his liberty.

• "First of all, it is an undisputed fact that complainant Benhur Luy executed an affidavit which detailed the deprivation of his liberty. His elaboration of the deprivation of his liberty should be given weight vis-a-vis the allegations of respondents....

• "Second, the undersigned also finds the claim that complainant Benhur Luy went on a "spiritual retreat" at Bahay (ni) San Jose as contrary to human nature (to say the least). The records would show that respondent Janet Lim Napoles was extremely mad at complainant Benhur Luy for obtaining unauthorized loans in her behalf. With the anger of respondent Janet Lim Napoles, the undersigned finds it difficult to believe that complainant Benhur Luy would choose to have a spiritual retreat with priests that are closely associated with respondent Janet Lim Napoles. Why would complainant Benhur Luy choose to stay in an establishment that has close ties with respondent Janet Lim Napoles if the latter was already hell bent on filing a criminal case against him?

• "Sixth, an examination of the facts and circumstances of the instant case leads us to conclude that respondents had motive to deprive complainant Benhur Luy of his liberty. Respondent Janet Lim Napoles averred that she discovered that complainant Benhur Luy illegally obtained two (2) loans in her behalf. This, in turn, angered respondent Janet Lim Napoles, and the latter even threatened to file a criminal case against him.

• "However, complainant Benhur Luy's alleged knowledge of the anomalous transactions of JLN Group of Companies would place respondent Janet Lim Napoles in a compromising position. If complainant Benhur Luy is sued, then the latter would not have any choice but to reveal his knowledge on the involvement of JLN in the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel), Malampaya, and the Fertilizer scams. To avoid this, respondents restrained his liberty, thereupon forcing complainant Benhur Luy's silence.

• "Obviously, fishing into the motives of the perpetrators of this crime is an ardent task. However, the undersigned finds that the above-captioned proposition makes more sense than the one proffered by respondents. While the undersigned does not deny that there is evidence that complainant Benhur Luy committed the crime of qualified theft, their defense that he went on a spiritual retreat, [i]n a house with close ties with respondent Janet Lim Napoles, is simply unfathomable to believe.

• "Moreover, even if the alleged knowledge of complainant Benhur Luy on the anomalies involving JLN group of companies is disregarded, it is still logical to conclude that the qualified theft committed by the latter created a motive on the part of respondents to detain him.

• "With regard to the third element, and considering our above conclusion, it is crystal clear that the act of depriving Benhur Luy's liberty is illegal. Both respondents had no authority and/or justifiable reason to detain and deprive complainant Benhur Luy of his liberty.

• "As to the fourth element, it is undisputed that complainant Benhur Luy was deprived of his liberty for more than three (3) days. In fact, it lasted for months starting December 2012 up to March 2013, when complainant Benhur Luy was rescued by the NBI.

• "Lastly, with regard to the participation of respondent Janet Lim Napoles, it is evident that she was greatly involved in the deprivation of liberty of complainant Benhur Luy. The statements made by Merlita Sunas and Maria Flor Villanueva clearly manifest respondent Janet Lim Napoles's knowledge of the crime.

• "Moreover, Benhur Luy's detention at Bahay (ni) San Jose, which has close ties with respondent Janet Lim Napoles, is indicative that she had personal knowledge of what was happening. As earlier ruled, it would be highly illogical for Benhur Luy to have his retreat in a house that has very close ties to Janet Napoles. In our mind, complainant Benhur Luy's confinement at Bahay (ni) San Jose was caused by respondent Janet Lim Napoles.

• "The most damning link between the crime and respondent Janet Lim Napoles is the motive behind complainant Benhur Luy's deprivation of liberty. Consistent with our earlier finding that the deprivation was undertaken in order to prevent complainant Benhur Luy from divulging information on JLN group of companies' involvement in the Fertilizer Fund, Malampaya, and PDAF scams, it is clear that respondent Janet Lim Napoles authored and/or orchestrated this unlawful three (3) month detention.

• "It is true that the Review Resolution reversed the initial finding of lack of probable cause against Napoles and Lim. However, this in itself does not show grave abuse of discretion.

• "The very purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to give the prosecutor a chance to correct any errors that he or she may have committed in issuing the resolution ordering the filing of an information in court or dismissing the complaint. "Reception of new evidence is not within the office of a Motion for Reconsideration." A reversal may result if a piece of evidence that might have yielded a different resolution was inadvertently overlooked.

• "In initially dismissing the criminal complaint filed by Benhur Luy's family, the prosecutor disregarded the purported motive behind Benhur Luy's detention. According to the initial Resolution, whether Napoles and Lim detained Benhur Luy to prevent him from exposing the anomalous transactions of the JLN Group of Companies involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund would spawn an entirely different proceeding; hence, the issue is irrelevant in the proceedings involving the serious illegal detention charge.

• "Although motive is not an element of a crime, it is a "prospectant circumstantial evidence" that may help establish intent. In this case, the Review Resolution sufficiently explained why it was "contrary to human nature" for Benhur Luy to go on a three (3)-month spiritual retreat with priests that have close ties with Napoles; and, instead, BenhurLuy had been detained at Bahay ni San Jose, transferred from place to place until he was rescued in Pacific Plaza because he knew first-hand of Napoles's involvement in the pork barrel scam."

On whether Makati RTC 150 Presiding Judge Elmo Alameda committed grave abuse of discretion when he issued a warrant of arrest for Napoles, the Supreme Court decision stated:

• "Neither was there grave abuse of discretion in the issuance of the arrest warrant against Napoles. That Judge Alameda issued the arrest warrant within the day he received the records of the case from the prosecutor does not mean that the warrant was hastily issued. 'Speed in the conduct of proceedings by a judicial or quasi-judicial officer cannot per se be instantly attributed to an injudicious performance of functions. For one's prompt dispatch may be another's undue haste.'

• "Judge Alameda was under no obligation to review the entire case record as Napoles insists. All that is required is that a judge personally evaluates the evidence and decides, independent of the finding of the prosecutor, that probable cause exists so as to justify the issuance of an arrest warrant. As explained in Ho v. People:

'[I]t is not required that the complete or entire records of the case during the preliminary investigation be submitted to and examined by the judge. We do not intend to unduly burden trial courts by obliging them to examine the complete records of every case all the time simply for the purpose of ordering the arrest of an accused. What is required, rather, is that the judge must have sufficient supporting documents (such as the complaint, affidavits, counter-affidavits, sworn statements of witnesses or transcripts of stenographic notes, if any) upon which to make his independent judgment or, at the very least, upon which to verify the findings of the prosecutor as to the existence of probable cause.' (Emphasis supplied)

• "In his August 14, 2013 Order, Judge Alameda declared that he personally evaluated the records of the case, including the Review Resolution and the Sworn Statements of the witnesses; and that based on the records, he found probable cause to issue an arrest warrant against Napoles:

'After personally evaluating the Review Resolution issued by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore M. Villanueva, Chairman-Task Force on Anti-Kidnapping and approved by Prosecutor General Claro A. Arellano, together with the Sworn Statements of the complainants and other evidence on record, the undersigned finds the Review Resolution to have factual and legal basis. Likewise, the undersigned after personally reviewing the finding of Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore M. Villanueva based on the evidence on record, finds probable cause for the issuance of Warrant of Arrest against the accused for the crime of Serious Illegal Detention 'under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code there being probable cause to believe that the crime of Serious Illegal Detention has been committed by the accused'."

In sum, the Supreme Court's Second Division denied Napoles's petition for certiorari thus: "We afford respondents the presumption of regularity in the performance of their duties... Napoles failed to show capriciousness, whimsicality, arbitrariness, or any despotic exercise of judgment by reason of passion and hostility on the part of respondents." — PCIJ

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Solgen seeks reversal of Napoles conviction (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 16, 2017 - 12:00am 0 7 googleplus0 0


FEBRUARY 16 -READY TO WALK? Photo taken on Jan. 20, 2016 shows Janet Lim Napoles being escorted to the Sandiganbayan for a hearing of her plunder case in connection with the pork barrel scam. MICHAEL VARCAS

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate is holding a hearing on yet another corruption case this week, but there may be a reversal of fortune of sorts for previous Senate “visitor” and so-called pork-barrel queen Janet Lim Napoles – courtesy of no less than the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

Last Jan. 11, or just six months into the Duterte administration, the new crew at the OSG filed with the Court of Appeals a “manifestation in lieu of rejoinder” recommending the acquittal of Napoles for the crime of serious illegal detention of her second cousin, whistle-blower Benhur Luy. Court documents obtained by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) show that the CA received the manifestation on Jan. 20.

Luy is a state witness in the plunder cases against Napoles. On April 14, 2015, a Makati trial court convicted and sentenced Napoles to reclusion perpetua or 40 years in prison for forcibly detaining Luy first in a retreat house and then in her own home from December 2012 to March 2013.

Then president Benigno Aquino III meanwhile put up a P5-million bounty for the capture of Napoles’ brother and co-respondent in the case, Reynaldo “Jojo” Lim.

Napoles is serving her life sentence at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City, while her brother Jojo Lim remains at large.

Luy, who was employed in Napoles’ JLN Group of Companies, had testified that Napoles and Lim had detained him in two places to prevent him from revealing to authorities how she used bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to get billions of pesos of pork-barrel funds from dozens of lawmakers for fake projects. Napoles, however, has always maintained that she had not had him kidnapped.

Three former senators are now facing plunder charges for the alleged misuse of their pork-barrel funds using the fake NGOs of Napoles as beneficiaries, supposedly in exchange for fat kickbacks. A special audit report on the pork barrel disbursed from 2007 to 2009 that the Commission on Audit (COA) released in August 2013 also indicates that at least a hundred former and current members of the House of Representatives may have abused the system and received kickbacks from Napoles.

The discovery of the supposed collusion between Napoles and her bogus NGOs and many lawmakers to defraud the government of taxpayers’ money even led the Supreme Court in November 2013 to declare as unconstitutional the allocation of pork-barrel monies to legislators.

Modus vivendi?

Five legal experts inside and outside government were queried separately by PCIJ on the OSG’s manifestation regarding Napoles’ illegal detention case. Speaking on condition of anonymity, they agreed that while it may not for now have a direct impact on the pork barrel cases pending before the Sandiganbayan, questions might be raised about the integrity of Benhur Luy’s testimonies in the illegal detention case, and against Napoles.

The question of common concern to the five lawyers interviewed by PCIJ is this: Has the Duterte administration forged a modus vivendi with Janet Lim-Napoles, and for what reasons and purposes?

The five lawyers are also unanimous about one thing: They say the OSG’s manifestation heralds a policy shift in how the Duterte administration wants to deal with Napoles, Luy, other state witnesses and the lawmakers who had been indicted in the plunder cases involving the misuse of pork barrel funds now pending trial before the Sandiganbayan.

Commented one of the lawyers: “The Solgen has taken positions before against the state, but often in minor cases, criminal and civil. This one is unusual because the Solgen has taken the side of the appellant, and against state witnesses in the pork barrel cases. This makes the Solgen manifestation significant. Most judges tend to favor the Solgen in cases like this one.”

Curiously, though, relevant senior officials in the Office of the Ombudsman, the Supreme Court and the Office of the Executive Secretary expressed surprise when asked by PCIJ if they had previous knowledge about the OSG’s manifestation regarding Napoles’ illegal detention case. All said they knew nothing about it and separately described the move of the OSG under Duterte as “dangerous,” “alarming” and “shocking.”

Solicitor General Jose Calida, Assistant Solicitor General Henry Angeles and Associate Solicitor Armand Morales had submitted the manifestation to the Court of Appeals. Calida’s signature does not appear in the document, but government lawyers say it is impossible for Calida not to know about the manifestation. Angeles is also currently serving as Calida’s chief of staff.

‘No liberty deprived’

The OSG’s 10-page manifestation dated Jan. 11, 2017 was apparently triggered by a “reply brief” from Napoles dated Sept. 20, 2016 – or barely four months earlier – where “the appellant reiterated her argument that the essential element of deprivation of liberty is absent and wanting in this case.”

“After examining anew the evidence presented by both the prosecution and defense,” the manifestation said, “the OSG finds that the evidence presented does not support beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant committed the crime of serious illegal detention.”

It also explained why the solicitor general was now disfavoring state witness Luy in the illegal detention case.

“At this juncture,” the OSG said in the manifestation, “it may be significant to point out that the solicitor general shares in the task and responsibility of dispensing justice and resolving disputes. He is similarly a servant of the law, the two-fold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or the innocent suffer (sic).”

It continued, “And while the OSG is, by law, constituted the law office of the Government whose specific powers and functions include that of representing the Republic and/or the people, it is not prevented from taking a position adverse to that of its clients, the People of the Philippines included, whenever it finds the contention of the adverse party or an accused tenable.”

The OSG also cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in one case, Orbos vs. CSC, noting that “this is not the first time that the Solicitor General has taken a position against his clients, like the CSC, the National Labor Relations Commission, and even the People of the Philippines... the Solicitor General has recommended the acquittal of the accused in the appealed criminal cases.”

Filed, refiled by DOJ Presiding Judge Elmo Alameda of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 had sentenced Napoles on April 14, 2015 to life in jail after a two-year trial. Napoles later raised her case to the 13th Division of the Court of Appeals and submitted her reply brief on Sept. 20, 2016. In less than four months, the OSG – which receives on average of about 30,000 appeals on criminal cases a year – filed its “manifestation in lieu of rejoinder” recommending her acquittal.

Among other things, the OSG noted in its manifestation that on June 10, 2013 a special panel of prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ) had recommended the dismissal of Luy’s complaint. The panel, after two months of investigation, reportedly found that Luy had “voluntarily stayed” at the priests’ retreat house.

Judge Alameda, in his ruling on the case, had said the prosecution was able to establish that Napoles ordered Luy’s detention when she discovered that he had started to transact business with certain lawmakers using her business model.

According to Luy, Napoles and her brother Reynaldo had kept him at Bahay ni San Jose, a Catholic retreat house in Magallanes Village, Makati City, occupied by priests, and then at the Pacific Plaza Towers in Taguig City, where the Napoles family resides.

Luy’s rescue by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation Special Task Force (NBI-STF) from Napoles’ posh residence in Taguig in March 2013 paved the way for an investigation of the use of fake NGOs as beneficiaries of the pork barrel funds of certain legislators.

Benhur’s conduct The NBI and Luy filed a serious illegal detention case against Napoles and Lim in March 2013, but as the OSG pointed out in its recent manifestation, a DOJ panel dismissed it three months later. The NBI then filed a motion for reconsideration, which had the DOJ refiling on Aug. 13, 2013 the case of serious illegal detention against Napoles and Lim. This in turn prompted the issuance of warrants of arrest against the two.

But in its manifestation for Napoles’ acquittal in the serious illegal detention case filed by Luy, the OSG said, “The conduct and behavior of Benhur Luy during the period of his alleged detention belie the fact that he was detained or deprived of his liberty, contrary to the findings of the trial court in its April 14, 2015 decision.”

The OSG manifestation gave weight to the testimony of a priest identified as Fr. Peter Edward Lavin, who on Oct. 30, 2013 had said in court that Luy had never hinted or mentioned that he was being restrained or deprived of his liberty.

The OSG also cited the sworn statements of two security personnel of the condominium building of Napoles where Luy was rescued by NBI-STF agents that Luy had supposedly shouted at his brother that he had not been kidnapped.

As additional ground for Napoles’ acquittal, the OSG noted the statement of the NBI-STF team leader that Luy was not physically restrained when they came looking for him, and that Lim was not armed or accompanied by bodyguards during the rescue operation.

The OSG argued as well that the building’s CCTV footages lent incontrovertible support to the testimonies of these witnesses.

DU30 on Napoles

Interestingly, just weeks before Napoles’ lawyers filed her “reply brief” in September 2016, President Duterte himself had brought up the notorious businesswoman’s case at a press conference in Davao City.

In his hometown on Aug. 21, 2016, Duterte told the media there that while some lawmakers had been indicted in the Napoles-led pork barrel scam in 2013, it was “not enough vindication for the Filipino people.”

“I would now raise again the Napoles issue,” media reports quoted the President as saying. “There are a lot of billions and billions of pesos lost. We have been able just only to put several lawmakers inside but only because the charge, the accusation is non-bailable.”

“Let us revisit the Napoles case,” Duterte said. “I have some revealing things to tell you about it. You just wait, but I will…if that is the only thing that I have to do until the end of my term, I will do it, for I shall have done a singular task, giving you the truth about the government.”

“The Napoles case should deserve a second look,” Duterte said, “for it also involves corruption and (Senator Leila) de Lima.”

Impact on pork cases?

For sure, the OSG is now giving the case more than a glance. Referring to the OSG’s manifestation, one of the legal experts queried by PCIJ remarked, “This is dangerous because of the indirect impact on (pending) pork cases, especially since Benhur talked because he was supposedly being detained illegally. This is not enough, of course, to set Napoles free, but doubt has been cast on the credibility of Benhur. Still, the illegal detention happened after Benhur acquired info on the pork transactions, so he can insist on his credibility about these matters. The problem is, public perception could turn against him because of this manifestation.”

A lawyer who had been part of the COA special audit team on the PDAF cases agreed with this view, noting, “Benhur gave a lot of documents kasi. Certainly, the indirect impact of this is to question his credibility, and that of the other witnesses. That might be the point of this manifestation.”

Still, the lawyer said, “A manifestation, from a lawyer’s point of view, does not always overturn or affect the court’s decision. This can be appealed to the (Supreme Court).”

Yet another lawyer – a government prosecutor – predicted that even with the manifestation, “(Napoles) stays in jail for the pork cases.”

The prosecutor added, “There was a time she wanted to tell all na. Maybe that is the modus vivendi, for her to tell all on politicians they (administration) don’t like.” – Malou Mangahas, Nancy Carvajal/ Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism


PHILSTAR

Court junks Jeane Napoles' petition vs tax evasion case By Elizabeth Marcelo (philstar.com) | Updated February 16, 2017 - 7:12pm 0 10 googleplus0 0


MOM's GLORY DAYS Friends flank Jeane Napoles in this screencap from the video of her 21st birthday bash. File

MANILA, Philippines — The Second Division of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) Thursday dismissed the civil case that Jeane Catherine Napoles filed against the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), over her repeated failure to attend the proceedings.

In a short hearing Thursday afternoon, Second Division acting chairperson Associate Justice Caesar Casanova and substitute member Associate Justice Ma. Belen Ringpis-Liban granted in open court the manifestation of state prosecutor Niña Suzette Mendoza to dismiss Napoles' petition for review against the BIR due to her and her legal counsel's continued absence.

Thursday marked the third time that Napoles and her lawyer failed to show up in the hearing of her own petition, which she filed in May 2016.

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Napoles' camp has also yet to submit before the court the affidavits of her intended witnesses while the prosecution team has already submitted the affidavit of its sole witness on Sept. 23, 2016.

Because of the repeated postponement of the hearing caused by the Napoles' absence, the court ruled to no longer set another trial date and instead dismiss the case outright.

Napoles' petition for review stemmed from the BIR's assessment that she has P17.46 million tax liabilities to the government in 2011, the year she supposedly bought a posh condominium unit at Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles, California worth $1.2 million or P54 million.

The BIR's assessment became the basis of the Department of Justice in filing tax evasion cases against Napoles in 2015 which are now pending before the CTA Third Division. She was charged with violations of Sections 254 or attempting to evade taxes and 255 or failure to file an income tax of the National Internal Revenue Code.

In her petition for review, Napoles said the BIR erred in its assessment as she did not have any legitimate source of income in 2011 because she was just a student at that time. Napoles also claimed that the condominium unit in the US was purchased by her parents though placed under her name.

Napoles is the youngest daughter of former Marines officer Jaime Napoles and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.

Mrs. Napoles is currently detained at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City for a serious illegal detention case filed by her nephew and former employee Benhur Luy, the primary state witness in the pork barrel scam.


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