Napoles panel fails to present evidence in illegal detention case
MANILA, Philippines—Janet Lim Napoles’ chief counsel failed to present any witness in her defense at Tuesday’s hearing of her illegal detention trial.
Chief defense lawyer Bruce Rivera said he was not aware that the judge had already denied a motion in which he asked for permission to file for a demurrer to evidence or the dismissal of the charge against his client on grounds the prosecution had failed to present enough evidence to convict her.
Napoles, the alleged brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam, is accused, along with her brother Reynald “Jojo” Lim, who remains at large, of illegally detaining whistle-blower Benhur Luy at a retreat house for priests which she maintained in Magallanes Village in Makati.
The prosecution had already rested its case and it was the defense’s turn at Tuesday’s resumption of the trial to present its evidence in defense of Napoles.
But Rivera told Judge Elmo Alameda of the Makati Regional Trial Court’s Branch 150 that he was not ready to present witnesses as he was still waiting for the judge’s ruling on his July 11 motion for leave of court to file a demurrer to evidence on grounds that the evidence presented by the prosecution was not sufficient to convict Napoles of serious illegal detention.
The judge said a copy of his order denying the motion to file the demurrer was sent to Rivera through the mail last July 31, but the lawyer said he had yet to receive it by Tuesday morning.
“I would like to manifest at this point that I am not ready to present witnesses because of the impression that I have to wait for an order first on our motion for leave,” Rivera explained.
Napoles’ lawyer, who was also an hour late for the hearing due to what he claimed was a scheduling confusion, was allowed by Alameda to present witnesses at the next hearing scheduled on Aug. 19.
Alameda said he understood Rivera’s predicament, thus he granted his request to reset the hearing on condition that the defense be prepared at the next hearing.
“There’s an order denying your motion to demurer to evidence, then there is no more legal obstacle or hindrance on your part to present your witness,” the judge told Rivera.
In a demurrer to evidence, the defense asks a judge to dismiss the charges against an accused for insufficiency of evidence. If such a motion is made with leave of court and is denied, the defense would then have to proceed with presenting its evidence.
In a demurrer without leave of court, an accused waives the right to present evidence and submits the case for judgment on the basis of the evidence presented by the prosecution.
Anticipating the presentation of defense witnesses, prosecution lawyer Christopher Garvida asked Rivera for a list of his witnesses and the sequence of their presentation and appearance in court.
Rivera requested for five days to supply the list, saying he still had to coordinate the schedules of the witnesses.
The defense had initially listed 18 witnesses but Rivera noted that he could give the list of first five only for the next hearing.
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