Big Brother is watching, Janet.
The Philippine National Police said six closed-circuit television (CCTVs) cameras have been installed inside and outside the bungalow where pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles is being held at a police training camp in Sta. Rosa, Laguna province.
The surveillance cameras are part of the elaborate security arrangements for the alleged brains of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, according to PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac.
He said the CCTVs were set up on orders of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who was tasked by President Aquino to ensure Napoles’ safety after her surrender in Malacañang last week.
Napoles, who was ordered arrested by a Makati court for the alleged illegal detention of principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy, is also accused of siphoning off billions of pesos in lawmakers’ pork barrel, officially known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund, to her bogus nongovernment organizations.
On Friday, Makati Judge Elmo Alameda, who is handling the serious illegal detention case, reset the arraignment of Napoles and her coaccused brother, scheduled for Sept. 9, to Sept. 23 at 1:30 p.m., to give the court time to study the motions filed by the respondents.
“Due to time constraints in resolving three motions which were just heard this afternoon, the court has without recourse except to order the cancellation of the arraignment and reset it to Sept. 23,” Alameda said at a hearing on Friday.
Napoles and her brother, Reynald Lim, earlier filed motions to defer arraignment, suspend proceedings, and a request for a “bill of particulars,” a detailed, formal, written statement of charges by the prosecutor given upon the defendant’s formal request to the court.
Lorna Kapunan, Napoles’ lawyer, said they were asking for a bill of particulars since “it is not clear what is the conspiracy in the alleged kidnapping of Benhur Luy.”
Kapunan appealed for humanitarian considerations from Judge Alameda to allow the arraignment to be deferred.
“She is not going anywhere anyway. There is no danger of escape or flight. What is a few days if the ends of justice will be served?” she told the court.
Kapunan said the serious illegal detention charges were just an “irritant and diversion” to the bigger case against her client, the charge of plunder which has yet to be filed.
“Obviously this illegal detention has no basis and it is confusing the public because they thought this is already the plunder charge,” Kapunan told reporters after the hearing.
No food taster
Roxas on Friday said that, contrary to reports, Napoles does not enjoy the services of a “food taster” as part of the elaborate security arrangement to ensure that she lives to tell her story.
“There is no food taster to sample the food before she eats it,” he told the House committee on appropriations at a hearing on his department’s budget for 2014.
He said Napoles was on “eye-contact” arrangement, meaning there was a guard constantly “watching over her” at the detention facility.
Roxas said the food served to Napoles comes from the “general kitchen,” which also serves the rest of the occupants of Fort Sto. Domingo.
“What others eat, she also eats,” he said in reply to a question from Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting.
The CCTV cameras have been installed inside and outside the 88-square-meter bungalow where Napoles is detained at Fort Sto. Domingo, the training school of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF). Napoles was brought to the police camp under tight security on Sept. 1.
The surveillance cameras will allow jail guards to monitor 24/7 the activities in and out of the detention facility, Sindac said.
“These cameras were installed for security reasons. They will be under the direct supervision and control of the Special Action Force personnel,” he said.
The CCTVs are different from the camera which, if allowed to be installed, will allow the public to view the situation in Napoles’ cell through live streaming on the Internet.
“In case live streaming is allowed, only one camera will be used in the detention area,” Sindac said.
Sindac declined to give the specific areas where the CCTVs have been placed. But in an earlier interview, he said the cameras would not be installed in the bathroom and Napoles’ dressing area to give her privacy.
He said Napoles seemed to be adjusting well to her new environment as her medical condition has remained normal since suffering an anxiety attack and hypertension during the first two nights of her detention.
“(Napoles said) she had a good sleep,” Sindac said, citing a report from the SAF personnel assigned to guard the detainee.
Sindac’s office released 46 photographs of Napoles and her jail cell.
The pictures showed at least one CCTV installed inside the bungalow and two surveillance cameras outside the structure.
In another photo, Napoles could be seen having her blood pressure checked by a uniformed SAF personnel.
One photo showed a small refrigerator, the only electric appliance which Napoles, a diabetic, was allowed to bring in to keep her medicines.
Judge will decide
Kapunan said it was still up to Judge Alameda where the arraignment of Napoles should be held.
“Whether the arraignment will be held at Fort Sto. Domingo, at the Senate or here, it is the judge who will decide,” she said.
Kapunan stressed at the court hearing on Friday that a pending petition for certiorari with temporary restraining order which questions the arrest warrant issued by the Makati court might be resolved in a few days and the court should wait for that decision to be handed down.
The serious illegal detention case was filed against Napoles and her brother by the National Bureau of Investigation after they allegedly detained Luy, an employee of Napoles’ JLN Corp. which is implicated in the scam involving the congressional pork barrel.
Plunder charges have yet to be filed against Napoles and the other public officials allegedly involved in the scam.
“We want her to be ready for the bigger case which is the plunder charge,” Kapunan told the court.
Keeping her alive
Asked if he preferred that Napoles become a state witness, Roxas said the decision would be up to the Department of Justice, Office of the Ombudsman and the NBI.
Being a state witness “is not something that you just grant,” he said.
“You get something in return, what evidence, what testimony or whatever you could get to help the case that would be filed by the government,” he said.
“What’s important is she’s alive to face the process and full force of the law as an accused or, if she intends to tell what she knows, well and good,” Roxas said.