SC junks Napoles’ PDAF petitions

SC junks Napoles’ PDAF petitions

THE SUPREME COURT (SC) has upheld the Office of the Ombudsman’s determination of probable cause against Janet Lim Napoles, denying her petitions over charges related to the laundering of a P16-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of the late Davao del Sur Rep. Douglas R. Cagas in 2007.

The SC’s Second Division ruling on Dec. 7, but made public only recently, affirmed the Ombudsman’s findings that confirmed probable cause in Ms. Napoles’ participation in the PDAF scam.

In a statement on Tuesday, the SC said the petitions filed by Ms. Napoles and involved officers of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) were deemed moot due to the Sandiganbayan’s finding of probable cause and issuance of arrest warrants.

The High Court affirmed that even if not moot, the Ombudsman did not commit grave abuse of discretion as its “executive determination of probable cause is a highly factual matter which the Court cannot ordinarily review.”

“It is only when there is a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion in the Ombudsman’s conduct of preliminary investigation ‘amounting to a virtual refusal to perform a duty under the law’ that the Court decides to exercise its power of judicial review,” read part of the ruling penned by Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen.

The High Tribunal clarified that the Ombudsman’s assessment of probable cause does not pass judgment on the guilt or innocence of Ms. Napoles and other accused.

The Ombudsman filed charges against Ms. Napoles and DBM officials regarding the 2007 PDAF of Mr. Cagas which were reportedly diverted through non-government organizations (NGOs) Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation, Inc., and Philippine Social Development Foundation, Inc., eventually reaching the Technology Resource Center, the implementing agency for ghost projects.

The Ombudsman found evidence of a pork barrel scheme orchestrated by legislators, government agencies, and NGOs under Ms. Napoles’ control as cited in the Commission on Audit (CoA) 2012 report, exposing the failure of implementing agencies to execute the PDAF projects. — Jomel R. Paguian