MANILA–Solicitor General Jose C. Calida on Monday lauded the Court of Appeals reversing the ruling of Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) and acquitted the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles over the serious illegal detention charges filed against her by whistle-blower Benhur Luy
“The decision of the Court of Appeals encapsulates the Latin maxim fiat justitia ruat caelum. Let justice be done though the heavens fall,” Calida said in a statement.
In a 35-page decision dated May 5 but was released to media on Monday, penned by Associate Justice Normandie Pizzaro and concurred by Associate Justices Samuel Gaerlan and Jhosep Lopez, the CA’s 12th Division granted the appeal of Napoles reversing the ruling of Judge Elmo Alameda of Makati RTC branch 150 on April 2015 and ordered Napoles’ immediate release.
“I commend the magistrates of the 12th Division of the Court of Appeals for doing what is right based on the evidence before them,” said Calida.
Asked whether this has any bearing on Napoles’ pork barrel cases, the solicitor general said that Napoles’ serious illegal detention case is totally different and independent from other cases pending against her.
It will be recalled that two months ago, Calida filed with the CA a manifestation recommending Napoles’ acquittal on the illegal detention case.
Napoles appealed the lower court’s decision to 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.
The OSG filed in the Napoles case a Manifestation in Lieu of a Rejoinder dated Jan. 11, 2017, stating that the evidence presented by the prosecution did not support the conviction beyond reasonable doubt of Napoles for serious illegal detention.
According to Calida, the conduct and behavior of Luy during the period of his alleged detention was inconsistent with his claim that he was detained or deprived of his liberty.
He said the position of the OSG in this case was consistent with its mandate as People’s Tribune.
“This was not the first time that the OSG, as People’s Tribune, took a position favorable to an accused in a criminal case,” Calida explained.
“Some sectors make a big deal out of this case because it involves Janet Lim Napoles. However, as the principal lawyer of the Republic, this is just a simple criminal case wherein the evidence does not support the conviction of the accused,” he said.
The solicitor general noted that in the past, the OSG has recommended the acquittal of the accused in appealed criminal cases whenever the evidence falls short of the proof beyond reasonable doubt required in criminal cases.
“As Solicitor General, I share in the task and responsibility of dispensing justice,” Calida said. “I am a servant of the law, the two-fold aim of which is that the guilty shall not escape or the innocent suffer.”
“The evidence in the Napoles case did not sustain the conviction of the trial court. The essential element of deprivation of liberty was absent and wanting in this case,” he said.
Napoles and her brother, Reynald Lim, were accused of detaining Luy from December 20, 2012 to March 22, 2013 to prevent him from disclosing the businesswoman’s racket of siphoning off PDAF allocations through ghost projects.
Napoles would remain detention because she is also facing plunder charges in connection with the alleged pork barrel scam implicating some lawmakers and other government officials.
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje Tang said that commitment orders of the SB against Napoles stand because they were issued in connection with the cases pending before the SB, these orders constitute the legal bases for her continued detention.
Napoles is still detained at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City.