A protest vigil started outside Makati City Jail on Saturday as the government came under fire from netizens, militant activists and civil society groups for supposedly extending “special treatment” to a VIP detainee, alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
The watchdog group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) staged a demonstration at the entrance of the jail holding the controversial businesswoman, who was earlier ordered by a Makati court to be transferred to Fort Santo Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna province.
About 20 VACC members set up a tent and held up posters critical of the government’s handling of Napoles. They also called for the abolition of the pork barrel and the prosecution of the politicians linked to the scam.
The court ordered the transfer on Friday, but Napoles remained detained in an office inside the jail. She surrendered Thursday night to answer charges of serious illegal detention filed by Benhur Luy, a former employee and cousin, who would later become one of the whistle-blowers in the scam.
In a statement, VACC founding chair and president Dante Jimenez said “fairness and justice would require that in the present circumstances, lawmakers and private individuals alike, if the accusations were true, should be held accountable for the thievery and plunder against the Filipino people.”
Jimenez called on the public to join the vigil outside Makati City Jail.
Visiting her client late Saturday afternoon, defense lawyer Lorna Kapunan maintained that Napoles’ detention at the jail was not a form of special treatment. “I think the public should appreciate the gesture of the government to keep her alive. Whether she will spill the beans or not, let’s just look at the evidence,” the lawyer said.
Kapunan brought a red Coleman container, which she said contained her client’s medication for diabetes. The lawyer said she would ask the jail administration to store the medicines in a refrigerator.
Looking at the VACC protesters, Kapunan noted: “Public outrage is already mobilizing. How long will this last?”
She thanked President Aquino, who she said “enabled one person to live another day.”
“Our motion is to transfer her to safe place. Those who question motives should wait. This is all for us. The President says this is first step to knowing the truth.”
Kapunan also aired her objection to proposals to have a “livestreaming” video system inside Napoles’ detention facility in Laguna. “Let us not feast on this. This is not a reality show,” she said.