Court rejects plea to suspend ‘pork’ case

THE PHILIPPINES’ anti-graft court has rejected a plea by a businesswoman accused of funneling millions of pesos of congressional funds into fictitious projects to suspend her arraignment. 

In a 29-page resolution on Aug. 30, the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division said the charges against Janet Lim-Napoles “sufficiently allege acts constituting malversation through falsification of public documents.” 

“There is no ground for suspending the arraignment and the proceedings on the basis of prejudicial question,” Associate Justice Sarah Jane T. Fernandez said in the ruling. 

Ms. Napoles sought the dismissal of the lawsuit for lack of evidence that she owned the nongovernment organizations (NGO) that received the public funds. 

The court agreed with government prosecutors, saying the charges were not grounded on her ownership of the NGOs, but for falsifying public documents. 

“The charges against her are not based solely on her alleged control of the said NGOs, but also on her alleged specific acts in furtherance of the conspiracy to commit the crimes charged,” the court said. 

Ms. Napoles is being tried for conspiring with Agrarian officials in channeling P5 million to fictitious state projects. 

Under the Revised Penal Code, any person found guilty of malversation may be ordered to pay a fine equal to the amount of the embezzled funds. 

In June, the Sandiganbayan junked several pleas seeking to dismiss corruption charges against Ms. Napoles and her associates. 

She is under trial in a separate graft case involving the release of congressional funds worth P15 million for a nonexistent livelihood project in Nueva Ecija. 

The pork barrel allowed legislators to fund small-scale projects in their districts that fell outside the national infrastructure program and was voided by the Supreme Court in 2013 for being illegal. — John Victor D. Ordoñez