MANILA –Solicitor General Jose Calida on Wednesday asked the Court of Appeals to reconsider their manifestation on the decision of the Makati court that sentenced to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment to alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles over the serious illegal detention charges filed against her by whistle-blower Benhur Luy.
“I reviewed it personally and I was convinced the decision was wrong. The RTC (Regional Trial Court) erred in convicting the accused Janet Napoles for the crime of serious illegal detention. When we look at the evidence, the transcript of records, there are many instances that will support the acquittal of the accused,” Calida said in a press conference held in Makati City.
Napoles appealed the lower court’s decision at the Court of Appeals. Since this is a People of the Philippines case, the Solicitor General was ordered to respond.
“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 adding that the personalities involved in the case is immaterial to the decision of his office to comment and file the pleading before the appellate court,” Calida noted.
“We did not file our manifestation for the purpose of acquitting the person. It is just to let the Court of Appeals know what our opinion on the matter. 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 Supreme Court because we are partners with the judiciary,” he explained.
The OSG said in its manifestation that it reviewed Napoles’ reply brief dated Sept. 20, 2016, wherein appellant Napoles said the “element of deprivation of liberty is absent and wanting in this case”.
Based on such review of the evidence presented by prosecution and defense, the OSG said, “the evidence presented does not support beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant committed crime of serious illegal detention.”
The OSG also noted that the conduct and behavior of Luy during the time he was supposedly being detained against his will did not bear out his allegations of coercion and restriction.
“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.
The OSG manifestation was based, among others, on the testimony of one priest, Fr. Peter Edward Lavin and the NBI-special task force team leader who helped Luy, and the security guards at the condominium building where Napoles lived.
Calida said he was convinced after reviewing the case filed against Napoles by pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy that Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda erred in convicting her in 2015.
Among the evidences that he said convinced the OSG of Napoles’ innocence in the case is the fact that Luy was not restrained and was even able to see his family three times during his supposed captivity.
Luy, who was employed in Napoles’s JLN Group of Companies, claimed he was detained by Napoles and her brother, Reynaldo “Jojo” Lim at the 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.
Calida said there is no witness that testified about Luy’s detention.
He added that Luy was able to see his family and even resisted the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) who was supposed to rescue him at Napoles’residence in Taguig on March 2013.
“So you can see the conduct and behavior of Luy during that time belie his claim that he was being detained against his will,” Calida said adding that as an agent of law, he is duty-bound to state the facts of the case and “not sent an innocent person to the gallows.”
He reiterated that as Solicitor General, his interest is to see to it that justice is served.
At the same time, he said President Rodrigo Duterte has nothing to do with his actions on the case.
“Where did they get that idea? The President has nothing to do with this. I’m just doing my job and President Duterte does not instruct his Cabinet members on what to do. We are talking here about the rule of law and my mandate is to see to it that justice is done,” he explained adding that those who link the action of his office to alleged deal with Napoles have fertile imagination.
Still, he said it is still the Court of Appeals’ discretion if it will consider their manifestation.
Napoles is now detained at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City.
Apart from the serious illegal detention case, Napoles is also facing plunder charges in connection with the alleged pork barrel scam implicating some lawmakers and other government officials.