Updated 16:31 PM PHT Fri, February 17, 2017
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Solicitor General Jose Calida is standing firm on what he believes is the lack of evidence that Janet Lim Napoles is guilty of illegal detention. He even has a culprit for what he considers a court decision gone wrong: the former Secretary of Justice.
Calida claimed on Friday that a preliminary investigation was already conducted when the National Bureau of Investigation filed a complaint involving Napoles.
"The finding of this panel of prosecutors was, there is no probable cause to indict the accused," Calida said on The Source. "Then, even without a clarificatory hearing, presto-another decision came out indicting the accused. Now, was there anybody there in the [Department of Justice] who orchestrated this?"
CNN Philippines' Senior Correspondent Pinky Webb recalled that the secretary then was Senator Leila De Lima, to which Calida replied, "You said it."
He said that De Lima had a "special interest" in the Napoles case and called for a new panel "because she was not satisfied with the decision of the first panel."
"There was already a panel of prosecutors. Let the prosecutors do their job," said Calida. "Why would the secretary of Justice scout for one who is compliant to her wishes?"
The end goal, Calida posited, was "to detain and convict Janet Lim Napoles... for many reasons."
"She might talk if she's not detained. She might implicate bigger fishes," said Calida. "And that's what we are looking [into] now. "
His informants, he said, were "concerned citizens" who had approached him after his move to acquit Napoles of illegal detention went public.
Calida sent this recommendation to the Court of Appeals, arguing there was a lack of evidence for the illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy.
Luy had pointed to Napoles as the alleged mastermind behind the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam. Her bogus NGOs were linked with ghost projects funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund.
Multiple plunder cases are pending against Napoles at the Sandiganbayan. However, it was for the illegal detention of Luy that she was sentenced to life imprisonment by Judge Elmo Alameda of the Makati Regional Trial Court.
But Calida said that he was told Alameda was pressured into releasing this verdict.
"There was pressure in the conviction of Janet Lim Napoles," Calida on Friday. "That was what we heard."
Apart from the pressure on the judge, he credited the conviction to "the interest of Secretary De Lima then to have Napoles convicted and languish in jail."
Calida believes that more senators and higher officials are involved in the scam, and he is open to tapping Napoles for a testimony.
"People want to know the truth. I want to know the truth, and therefore I will not stop until I establish what is true," said Calida. "Regardless of who will be-kahit sinong tamaan [affected], I don't care."
300 million extortion attempt
Calida also claimed someone from government had tried to get Napoles to pay for her freedom.
"Also there were reports we received that there was an extortion attempt against Janet Napoles to the tune of 300 million pesos," Calida disclosed.
When asked for what purpose it was, he answered, "In exchange for her (Napoles') liberty."
He declined to identify the person while his office looked into the matter, but disclosed that it was "probably a member of the executive branch... with the collusion of some people, maybe even lawyers."
[Link to video]
Benhur Luy a "drug user"
Maintaining that Luy had not been detained, Calida said he was in seclusion for another reason: rehabilitation.
"Actually, [do] you know why he was put there? Because he was into drugs," said Calida. "He was a drug user and probably he thought that he could be rehabilitated with the priests ministering to him."
A priest from the retreat house where Luy was kept identified him as a drug user as well, but later was unable to support his claim. The priest was also believed to be involved in Napoles' illegal transactions.
Napoles' lawyer Stephen David believes that the Solicitor General's recommendation has weight, possibly affecting the other cases pending against his client.
"It might have an impact, but as of now my focus is on this particular case," said Calida. "So whether it will have an impact of the other cases, as of now that's not my concern."