Updated 00:55 AM PHT Fri, February 17, 2017
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Brushing aside talks that suspected pork scam brains Janet Lim-Napoles might be cleared of charges for allegedly defrauding the government billions of pesos, Malacañang chief legal adviser Salvador Panelo said on Thursday that this would be unlikely given that the evidence for the plunder case was strong.
This developed after Solicitor General Jose Calida said Wednesday that the court erred in convicting Napoles for serious illegal detention.
"The fear of the people is that it might affect the plunder case. It will never be affected (because) these are two different cases," Panelo said. "Malabo mangyari [unlikely/far-fetched]."
Napoles had been sentenced by a Makati court in April 2015 to up to 40 years in prison in connection with an illegal detention case filed by her former employee-turned-pork scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.
The SolGen's move spawned speculations that this might be a prelude to eventually also acquit Napoles, who is facing multiple plunder cases before the Sandiganbayan.
Similarly, Malacañang spokesperson Ernesto Abella shrugged off speculations that Napoles' lawyers — who are known supporters of the administration — had influenced the SolGen's move.
Napoles' counsel Stephen David is a known Duterte supporter. His wife, Lanee Cui-David, had also represented Napoles before being appointed deputy commissioner at the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Another Napoles lawyer, Bruce Rivera, is also a Duterte supporter and law schoolmate.
"That's what exactly they are-speculations," Abella told reporters."I don't have the imagination to go into that area to see any connections."
He pointed out that, although illegal detention and plunder case against Napoles were "intertwined," they were "not inseparable."
Abella added that the SolGen's actions were solely his — and that the President "trusts the decisions of his alter egos."
CNN Philippines' Ina Andolong contributed to this report.