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Sisyphus’ Lament

Did Napoles really kidnap Benhur Luy?

/ 12:07 AM February 20, 2017

Singapore — One opinion is astoundingly missing from the reversal of Janet Lim Napoles’ conviction, which was recommended by Solicitor General Jose Calida. Judge Elmo Alameda tried and sentenced Napoles. How can we not discuss his analysis?

Imagine our Supreme Court allowing then 37-year-old Manny Pacquiao to run in the 2016 presidential election.

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Would you cry foul about bribes made in Romania? Perceived voting patterns in key cases? Influence-peddling by a former president, a former SolGen, or Daniel Matsunaga fans?

Or is the most convincing knockout simply Article VII, Section 2 of our Constitution, which requires a president
to be 40?

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But we insist on debating law with conspiracy theories.

In 2013, the Inquirer reported on Benhur Luy’s exposé on how Napoles allegedly siphoned P10 billion out of pork barrel funds. In 2014, the Ombudsman charged Napoles and three senators with plunder. But Calida was not commenting on her plunder case.

The pork barrel scam was exposed after National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents rescued Benhur Luy, Napoles’
personal assistant and second cousin (and later, state’s witness), from her Taguig luxury condo.

After Luy took money from her, Napoles allegedly kept him prisoner from December 2012 to March 2013. He was first held in Bahay ni San Jose, a retreat house in Magallanes Village, Makati, then in the condo. Napoles did not find Luy’s hard drive with its incriminating spreadsheets.

Napoles was separately charged with serious illegal detention. In 2015, Judge Alameda of Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 issued a 26-page decision sentencing Napoles to 20-40 years in jail.

Napoles appealed. In January 2017, Calida filed a 10-page manifestation with the Court of Appeals, recommending that it reverse Napoles’ conviction.

Remember, a criminal case must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Napoles need only raise sufficient doubt, not disprove Luy, to avoid jail.

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Calida opined that the trial evidence raised doubt on whether Luy was held captive for three months. The Inquirer reported that Calida stressed that a priest testified that Luy showed no sign of being held against his will in the retreat house. Two condo building security guards claimed Luy shouted to NBI agents that he was not detained. Napoles had no armed guards at the condo to prevent his escape.

A logical person would ask before anything else how Alameda addressed these doubts. He looked these witnesses in the eye, being the judge.

Perhaps he concluded the priest and guards were close to Napoles and not objective, and Luy was coerced in other ways, beyond armed thugs. Or perhaps Calida is right, and the judge was swept up in the anti-Napoles furor.

I filed a freedom of information request at foi.gov.ph for Calida’s manifestation and Alameda’s decision, public documents which answer this. I also tagged Calida’s official Twitter account.

I received no reply.

How can we skip Alameda’s analysis and immediately speculate on Napoles lawyers’ alleged ties to President Duterte, whether Napoles will be made a state’s witness or Luy will be discredited as a witness in the plunder cases, and communists decrying a “skewed” system?

Even when Alameda ruled in 2015, we focused on Napoles’ claim that Luy was promised a promotion, not on what evidence he cited to jail her.

Strangest of all, we cite the 2016 Supreme Court decision in Napoles vs De Lima instead of Alameda’s. This Supreme Court decision discussed the prosecutor’s investigation before Napoles’ trial. Alameda’s sentenced her to jail.

Obviously, debating the former after a full trial and conviction makes as much sense as taking bets on a boxing match that is already over.

When US President Donald Trump attacked the “so-called judge” who blocked his immigration ban, even “Saturday Night Live” repeated what doctrine judges used. When our SolGen recommends Napoles’ acquittal, we debate everything, but how Alameda convicted her.

We demand rule of law and a better judiciary. Can we begin by appreciating how the judge ruled in the trial of the decade, before debating law using politics?

So can Judge Alameda just share his decision on Facebook? #FOI

React: [email protected], Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

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TAGS: Benhur Luy, conspiracy theories, Elmo Alameda, Inquirer column, Inquirer columnist, Inquirer Opinion, Janet Lim-Napoles, Jose Calida, Oscar Franklin Tan, pork barrel scam, Rodrigo Duterte, serious illegal abduction, Sisyphus’ Lament
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