Napoles fears for life, says lawyer

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It won’t be an easy trip for Janet Lim-Napoles on Monday to a Makati City court for her arraignment on the serious illegal detention charge by her former employee Benhur Luy, who claimed he was held captive for three months to prevent him from talking about her alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Napoles, who is detained at Fort Sto. Domingo, a Special Action Force (SAF) training camp in Sta. Rosa City in Laguna province, fears threats against her “from everywhere,” her lawyer, Lorna Kapunan, said yesterday.

“She has real fears,” Kapunan said. “She is scared.”

The 49-year-old businesswoman will be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. at the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 150 of Judge Elmo Almeda.

Napoles allegedly took Luy captive in December last year. Luy, 32, was rescued by the National Bureau of Investigation on March 22.

During the NBI inquiry, Luy and other former employees of Napoles disclosed how the businesswoman allegedly channeled billions of pesos  from the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund and other state agencies into ghost projects.

Last week, Napoles, along with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada, was charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman. Another 34 people were charged with either plunder or malversation of public funds in connection with the alleged racket perpetrated over the past decade.

In a phone interview, Kapunan said she was concerned about her client’s security during the trip from Laguna to Manila and back since there were several “exit and entry points” along the route. She said there had been threats against Napoles since she decided “to tell all regardless of who is affected.”

Kapunan said she intended to bring a motion today asking Almeda to conduct the trial in Fort Sto. Domingo. She stressed her motion was not meant to delay the trial.

Napoles disappeared on Aug. 14 after Almeda issued a warrant of arrest for her and her brother Reginald Lim. She surrendered to President Aquino two weeks later, saying she feared for her life. Lim remains at large.

Kapunan described the serious illegal detention case against Napoles as just a “side issue.”

She said the other defense lawyers had likewise sought the release of Napoles on bail to enable her to prepare for the plunder charges against her.

Police authorities have tightened security at the Makati City Hall compound ahead of the arraignment at the RTC Branch 150 on the 15th floor.

Bomb-sniffing dogs of the K-9 unit have been making rounds of the City Hall perimeter since Saturday, said Senior Supt. Manuel Lukban, Makati police chief.

More policemen have been deployed in the area and on the 15th floor, he said.

Lukban said he had met with officials of the Philippine National Police SAF and the Criminal Investigation and Detection group to map out Napoles’ trip to Makati.

Lukban said the police had not received any report of threats against Napoles. He said that while security would be tightened, it would be “business as usual” at the City Hall.

“We don’t want the work at the City Hall and the other court proceedings to be disrupted by this,” he said. With reports from Niña P. Calleja in Manila, and Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon

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