Calida: Regional trial court made a mistake in convicting Napoles

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — "It is my well-considered opinion, as well as the opinion of my assistant solicitor generals, that the Regional Trial Court erred in convicting Janet Napoles for the crime of serious illegal detention under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code."

Solicitor General Jose Calida made that statement during a media conference today.

Calida said a review of the evidence shows, Napoles did not actually detain illegally her cousin Benhur Luy. He pointed out, Luy's behavior during the three months of his supposed detention "belies the fact that he was actually detained or deprived of his liberty."

He said, "When we looked at the evidence, at the transcript of records, there are many glaring instances which will support the acquittal of the accused."

Luy is the whistleblower in the alleged Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam which Napoles was embroiled in.

Calida clarified that the manifestation was not filed for the purpose of acquittal, rather to let the Court of Appeals know what their opinion was.

He said, "It is up to the Justices of the Court of Appeals to assess the weight of our pleading. And, modesty aside, the Solicitor General is considered as the 16th Justice of the Supreme Court."

 

He added, "It is our job to see that justice is served and justice will not send an innocent person to the gallows. Neither should a guilty person get away with murder, as they say."

He stressed that the personalities involved in the case were "immaterial" to them.

Calida mentioned the following facts that led them to conclude that Napoles was wrongly convicted:

  • Luy was in the retreat house where he was allegedly detained for three months. Even with access to a cell phone, which he used, the prosecution never stated that Luy called anyone that he was being held against his will.
     
  • Luy was never restrained in the retreat house. Calida said that according to witnesses, Luy "acted like any other normal persons who would go under a retreat."
     
  • Luy was able to see his family three times while allegedly illegally detained. Calida said that "in none of these instances did he (Luy) intimate to anyone that he was being kidnapped or detained by the appellant." He added that that was not the "normal reaction" of anyone illegally detained.
     
  • Luy was able to leave the retreat house on several occassions; having dinner with several priests and going to a supermarket to buy "foodstuff."
     
  • In a letter Luy slipped to a relative on February 21, 2013, he never mentioned that he was detained against his will.
     
  • Calida stressed that "most telling" was that during the alleged rescue on March 22, 2013, Luy refused to go with the agent of the National Bureau of Investigation. Shouting and insisting that he had not been kidnapped by Reynaldo Lim, another person accused in the alleged PDAF scam.

Calida said that the behavior and conduct of Luy during his alleged detention "belie the fact he was actually detained or deprived of his liberty."

The Solicitor General said the issue of the case of alleged illegal detention had nothing to do with the alleged PDAF scam cases Napoles is facing.

He clarified, "These are two separate matters. As far as we are concerned, Benhur Luy was not detained and therefore the case should be dismissed against him."

Calida said it would be up to the Court of Appeals to assess their findings.

He also clarified that there was no deal with Napoles, but that his main interest was to see justice done.

Calida said they reviewed the alleged illegal detention case against Napoles after receiving a brief from Napoles in September 2016, reiterating arguments to her defense.

Calida stressed that President Rodrigo Duterte had nothing to do with Napoles' case.

"President Duterte does not instruct his Cabinet members and officers on what to do."

Napoles gets 30 years

Janet Lim-Napoles on April 14 was found guilty by a Makati court of illegally detaining pork scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.

The alleged pork scam mastermind was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt as principal of the crime and sentenced to reclusion perpetua, or at least 30 years in jail, after which Napoles becomes eligible for pardon.

Read: Napoles gets at least 30 years for serious illegal detention

Napoles was also asked by Judge Elmo M. Alameda of Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 to pay Luy ₱50,000 for civil indemnity and ₱50,000 for moral damage.

The court said Luy suffered serious anxiety as a result of his detention from December 2012 to March 2013 for allegedly defrauding her of her collections from the allocated pork barrel of certain legislators.