article main image

Napoles forfeits right to present evidence in Sandigan’s graft case

By Manila Bulletin

The graft case filed against businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles will be resolved by the Sandiganbayan even without the presentation of her counter-evidence.

It was her choice after she filed a demurrer to evidence even if her plea to file the pleading was denied by the anti-graft court.

Napoles is one of the several accused in the graft and malversation charges filed against former Nueva Ecija 3rd District Representative Aurelio M. Umali in the alleged misuse of the former legislator’s priority development assistance fund (PDAF) for agricultural programs in 2005. She was indicted only in one graft case.

While the cases against Napoles and the other accused are is still ongoing, the charges against Umali had been dismissed in 2019 for violation of his right to speedy disposition of cases.

A demurrer to evidence is a pleading filed by an accused in a criminal case to dismiss the charge on the alleged weakness of the prosecution’s evidence to sustain a conviction.

But an accused can file a demurrer to evidence only after the court has granted her plea to do so. If the permission is not granted, as in the case of Napoles, and the accused still filed his/her demurrer, the case will be resolved based solely on the evidence presented by the prosecution as he/she is deemed to have waived his/her right to present evidence.

The grant of a demurrer to evidence filed with court’s permission will result in the dismissal of the charge and the dismissal is tantamount to an acquittal.

Napoles’ plea to file a demurrer to evidence was denied by the Sandiganbayan last June 2. Despite the denial, she filed her demurrer.

The court’s second division ruled: “Thus, when leave of court is denied and the accused files a demurrer to evidence, the accused waives the right to present evidence and submits the case for judgment on the basis of the evidence of the prosecution.”

The court’s resolution dated Aug. 5, 2022 also stated:

“Accused Napoles is deemed to have waived her right to present evidence and her case is submitted for decision on the basis of the evidence for the prosecution. Nonetheless, for the orderly disposition of the case, the resolution of the demurrer to evidence as well as the motion to resolve filed by accused Napoles shall be made after all the other accused have presented their evidence.”

Associate Justice Arthur O. Malabaguio wrote the resolution with the concurrence of Second Division Chairperson Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Associate Justice Michael Frederick L. Musngi.

The other co-accused in the cases also filed their separate motions to reconsider the denial of the filing of demurrer to evidence.

The motion for reconsideration filed by Evelyn De Leon, president of the Philippine Social Development Foundation, Inc., in her graft case was granted by the court. De Leon now has the court’s permission to challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution and move for the dismissal of the charge filed against her.

However, the court denied the motions for reconsideration filed by Renato P. Manantan, regional executive director of the Department of Agriculture (DA); Corazon Bautista, collector; and Anita Tansipek, president of the Samahan ng mga Maninida ng Prutas sa Gabi, Inc.; in their graft and malversation cases.

They have to submit their counter-evidence during the trial of the cases.