The Court of Appeals has cleared alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in the serious illegal case filed by her former aide and relative Benhur Luy.
In a decision dated May 5, the CA Twelfth Division granted Napoles’ appeal and subsequently reversed the ruling of the Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 150 in 2015 convicting her in the case.
According to the CA, the evidence was “not sufficient to establish Napoles’ participation or culpability in the alleged criminal conspiracy” to detain Luy illegally.
Despite her acquittal by the CA, Napoles will remain in detention at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City because she is facing plunder and graft charges over the pork barrel scam.
Napoles and her brother, Reynald Lim, were accused of putting Luy under illegal detention from December 20, 2012 to March 22, 2013 to prevent him from spilling the beans about her alleged involvement in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
The appellate court, however, said the prosecution failed to prove Luy was forcibly brought and confined in Bahay ni San Jose by Napoles, that there was an intent to deprive him of his liberty, and the alleged conspiracy between the businesswoman and her brother regarding the detention of her former aide.
“Thus, the oft-repeated trusim that the conviction of the accused must rest not on the weakness of the defense but on the strength of the prosecution must be applied in the present appeal. The constitutionally guaranteed presumption of innocence must prevail,” the CA said.
The Makati court had sentenced Napoles to life imprisonment or a minimum of 20 years and one day up to 40 years in jail, over Luy’s detention while Lim remains at large.
The CA ruling was penned by Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro. Associate Justices Samuel Gaerlan and Jhosep Lopez concurred.
The appellate court reversed Napoles’ conviction just two months after Solicitor General Jose Calida recommended it.
Napoles is represented in the case by lawyer Bruce Rivera, who leads the Impeach Leni Movement planning to file an impeachment complaint against Vice President Leni Robredo.