Napoles no-show anew in PDAF graft hearing

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    PROCEEDINGS in the 15 graft charges against former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile failed to roll forward yet again after plunder convict Janet Lim Napoles, a co-defendant, failed to appear in court for yesterday’s hearing.

    The cases, filed way back in 2014, have yet to move past the pre-trial stage due to numerous legal and procedural issues that had to be resolved first.

    Prosecutors said Enrile and his co-defendants conspired in funneling P345 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” allocations into ghost projects using bogus non-government organizations created by Napoles.

    Likewise named co-accused were Enrile’s staff Jessica “Gigi” Reyes and Napoles’ children Jo Christine and James Christopher.

    Court records showed Napoles was also supposed to appear in court last January 29 to sign the pre-trial order but failed to do so.

    For her past two absences, officials of the Bureau of Corrections’ (BuCor) Correctional Institution for Women (CIW) cited Napoles’ health issues. Jail Senior Insp. Jane Bautista and Senior Supt. Cecilia Villanueva explained Napoles was unable to leave her cell because of an elevated blood sugar level.

    But justices of the anti-graft court’s Third Division were unimpressed at the justification submitted, with Associate Justice Ronald Moreno saying Napoles appears to feel under the weather when she is summoned to face the court.

    Presiding Justice and Third Division chairperson Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang required BuCor-CIW officials to submit a notarized copy of Napoles’ medical records.

    The records were supposed to be submitted today as Napoles is again directed to appear before the court in person to sign the pre-trial order – a procedural requirement prior to the start of trial proper in the 15 counts of graft.

    Napoles is serving a sentence of reclusion perpetua after her conviction for plunder by the First Division in 2018 even as she is being held without bail for other pending plunder charges.