Is Napoles’ conviction fair to the people?

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Janet-Lim-Napoles-with-jail-guardsReclusion perpetua, or 20 years and one day to 40 years in prison, was the sentence meted to Janet Lim Napoles for the crime of “Serious Illegal Detention” against whistleblower Benhur Luy, not for the more serious charges of graft and plunder she’s facing before the graft court Sandiganbayan.

Since Napoles is already sentenced to reclusion perpetua — Latin for “permanent imprisonment” — it really doesn’t matter much if the Sandiganbayan would convict her of plunder. The plunder charge that arose from the P10-billion pork barrel scam has been lingering in the graft court with no conviction in sight.

Now that Napoles is safely “hidden” from public view and scrutiny for at least the next 20 years, the pressure to prosecute her is off. The plunder case can then be put in the back burner, to simmer slowly – very slowly — to keep it just warm enough for the wheel of justice to move, albeit at a much slower pace.

But to a lot of people, particularly many members of Congress who allegedly have had illicit deals with Napoles to “steal” from their pork barrel allocations, the conviction of Napoles gave them a sigh of relief. Now they can go about with their normal lives with no “Sword of Damocles” hanging over their heads.

Congressman's luxury car with plate no. 8.

Congressman’s luxury car with plate no. 8.

Indeed, except for three of their colleagues, life has been so good to these lawmakers in the past four years of the Aquino administration. With record amounts of pork barrel allocations and the “extra” pork they received through the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), many lawmakers have a lot to thank Napoles for the use of her bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) to funnel and launder their takes from their pork barrel. The least they can do for her is to let her serve her time in prison peacefully… and silently. Of course “silence” would also benefit these lawmakers. As the late Senator Genaro Magsaysay used to say, “Silence is golden,” silence would indeed be the ambrosia for their political survival.

Conviction by convenience

Happier days: Estrada, Revilla, and Enrile

Happier days: Estrada, Revilla, and Enrile

But what I find rather strange is the ease with which Napoles was prosecuted for “Serious Illegal Detention.” Was it a case of “conviction by convenience,” which Napoles may have agreed to in order to satisfy some powerful people who’d want her “silence” in exchange for her life? And what would be a better choice: life in prison or life in the afterworld?

Enrile-Revilla-Estrada.3
But how about the lives of the three senators – ex-Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla — who are now in detention for the plunder charges relating to the Napoles pork barrel scam? Charged with a non-bailable offense, the three could be in detention for the rest of their lives if Napoles refused to cooperate and testify against them. And why should she? She’s already incarcerated and won’t see the light of day for the next 20 years. To help in the prosecution as a state witness against the three senators wouldn’t help her case unless the president would grant her executive clemency during the Christmas season this year.

Napoles and Aquino

Napoles and Aquino

The question is: Would President Aquino pardon Napoles? While it has been speculated that Napoles was politically connected with Aquino as evidenced by photos taken of Aquino and members of the Napoles family during political and fund-raising events, an executive clemency for Napoles seems like a political hot potato. But didn’t former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo pardon convicted plunderer ex-president Joseph “Erap” Estrada? It would then surprise no one if the next president would grant clemency to Napoles and the three senators, which would makes one wonder: Who would be the president most likely to pardon Napoles and the three senators?

Presidential derby

Rare encounter: Grace meets Jojo

Rare encounter: Grace meets Jojo

Today, the presidential front-runner is Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, who, so far, is the only one who has declared his candidacy. However, close behind him – and getting closer – is Sen. Grace Poe, who has yet to declare her candidacy but the bets are on that she will run for president. The latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey shows Binay with a popularity rating of 36% last March, down from 37% in December. But Poe’s popularity has increased significantly, from 21% in December to 31% last March. With the presidential election still a little over a year away, their ratings could change dramatically in the following months.

Assuming that the two main contenders for the presidency are Binay and Poe, who, between them, would most likely, grant clemency to Napoles and the three senators? To some people, it’s a no-brainer – “Of course, Binay will pardon them, stupid!” I concede, but how about Poe? Hmm…

Realpolitik

While Poe doesn’t seem to have any direct connection to Napoles or any of the three senators, there would be powerful and influential people who would seek clemency for them. But would she be able resist them, some of whom might be big contributors to her presidential campaign? She might be able to resist at the beginning of her term. But it would be a different situation once realpolitik takes hold. By that time, horse-trading would once again be the norm rather than the exception.

Alphonse Capone

Alphonse Capone

Which makes one wonder if Napoles and the three senators would ever be convicted of plunder? It reminds me of American gangster Alphonse Capone. Unable to gather evidence to prosecute and convict Capone of more serious crimes, the Federal government decided to charge him for a much lesser charge, tax evasion. In 1931, Capone was found guilty and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was never found guilty of any of the more serious crimes he committed. Is Janet Lim Napoles going to be the Philippines’ Alphonse Capone, never to be convicted of more serious crimes?

For now, we have to settle for a conviction to a lesser crime of “Serious Illegal Detention,” which begs the question: Is Napoles’ conviction fair to the people?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)


6 Responses. Have your say.

  1. For the first time dear justices let us do the right thing and put the three to immediate trial so that they can soon be told if they are convicted or onot and then carry out the penalty. DO NOT LET THESE FESTER!!! Justcie must be properly donw. The next one of course is the AMNPATUAN MASSACRE. what’s happening here?

  2. perry says:

    Perry, hiding Napoles so she can avoid conviction for the alleged guilt of plunder she committed is not fair to the people. Such evasion does not speak well of all three branches of the Philippine government. Using a relatively minor case to dodge the major court litigation will never restore the confidence of the public in this administration. Even the innocent government officials will appear tainted for permitting this injustice. Later, when the truth comes out, perhaps when this generation has passed away, the children and grandchildren of these Pork Plunder case suspects will hound them when the public points fingers at them, and NOT at the deceased suspects. That would be hell on earth for the innocent heirs of the plundered wealth. Dirty money? The escapees? Well, they say there is karma, in life after life. Just musing. A salute to your crusade for fairness.

    Lourdes M. Ceballos
    (Sent by email)

  3. perry says:

    Hi Lourdes,

    The prosecution of Napoles on a charge of “Serious Illegal Detention” is just another scam intended to “protect” those lawmakers guilty of plundering the country. Yep, it’s the mother of all scams!

    It’s interesting to note that the first case filed against Napoles by Benur Luy was “kidnapping.” De Lima dismissed it for lack of probable cause. That was before Luy started singing like a canary. After the pork barrel scam was blown sky high, a “Serious Illegal Detention” was filed against Napoles so she can be detained. Some say that she was detained to protect her from some people who wanted her dead.

    Perry

  4. Fernando Habito says:

    The result shows the justice system did not weigh correctly how corruptions should be dealth with correctly. It’s not fair to the people because the garnishment of the accumulated money and assets that belong to the people got no clear directions where to go and how it will be used.

  5. The RTC judge who acted fast in sentencing Janet Napoles to reclusion perpetua should be commended for expeditiously litigating the case, a record for the PH judicial system known worldwide for turtle-pace criminal trials.

    Napoles’ crime for serious physical detention won’t be noticeable if she were not on trial for plunder together with members of Congress and other government officials. The SC Chief Justice and Associate Justices know that their Court will only have a whole page in Philippine history if the graft case vs. Roberto Ongpin will be elevated to plunder as the amount of government loss requires and be dispensed with as expeditiously with the plunder cases against Gloria M. Arroyo, Janet Napoles and the members of Congress with others co-accused with regards the pork barrel scam.

    Like in basketball, Ongpin and those accused of plunder are running the clock and waiting for an opportunity to frustrate justice.

    Sec. de Lima has spectacular “shot” left to score though and beat Ongpin and those accused of plunder by transferring the evidence of their acquiring monetary assets thru graft and corrupt practices against them and ask the new U.S. Attorney General to file lawsuits in the U.S. for asset-recovery and civil restitution of their illegal act pursuant to the PHL-USA Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. Let’s see who will laugh last.

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      This woman was charged and convicted for illegal detention in no time at all and it looks like she will be spending an awful lot of time in prison for it. In the meantime, there’s a bunch of evil individual in detention for murdering a lot of innocent people in Mindanao. They’ve been there for quite some time and their trial seems to be going nowhere. Our country’s justice system is a joke and more likely to stay that way.

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