The Sandiganbayan yesterday ruled to proceed holding Reynald Lim, brother of suspected pork barrel queen Janet Lim Napoles, for trial for graft and malversation of public funds in connection with his alleged role in the P900-million Malampaya fund scam.
In the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division resolution on 5 October, it denied the quashal motion of Lim and said it is too early for the court to rule on whether he acted in conspiracy with Napoles.
Both Lim and Napoles were among the 25 other individuals — which include Budget Chief and now House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya and former Agrarian Reform Secretary and now Masui City, Lanao del Sur Mayor Nasser Pangandaman – who were charged with 97 counts each of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and malversation of public funds through falsification of public documents.
The case stemmed from the alleged illegal diversion of P900 million worth of funds from the Malampaya natural gas project intended for relief operations, rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas affected by tropical storm “Ondoy” and typhoon “Pepeng” and instead funneled to the fake foundations of Napoles for the implementation of non-existent rehabilitation projects.
Although Lim countered that the evidence of the prosecution is weak since he is not a public official and that the only allegation of conspiracy against him was his relationship with Napoles, who is also the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel fund scam, the Sandiganbayan stressed that the anti-graft law allows the inclusion of private individuals as respondents as long as they are accused of conniving with government officials, in this case Andaya, Pangandaman and the other public respondents.
“Consistent with the avowed policy of the Anti-Graft Law to repress certain acts of public officers and private persons alike which constitute graft and corrupt practices or those which may lead thereto, our Supreme Court has underscored that private persons when acting in conspiracy with public officers may be indicted,” the Sandiganbayan said.
The Sandiganbayan instead urged Lim to prove his innocence of the crimes charged against him during the trial of the case.
“The assertion of the accused-movant that there is an absence of proof of conspiracy between him and his co-accused remains a matter of defense and is evidentiary in nature.
The truth thereof is thus best passed upon after a full-blown trial on the merits,” the resolution read.