Masbate governor now detained in Bicutan with Napoles, Gigi Reyes
The Sandiganbayan on Friday sent Masbate Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete to the detention facility in Bicutan, Taguig City, where alleged pork barrel racket brains Janet Lim-Napoles and fellow fund scam suspect Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes are locked up.
Lanete is facing graft and plunder charges for allegedly embezzling P108.4 million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) when she was still the representative of the lone congressional district of Masbate from 2004 to 2010.
She was the first to be arrested among five former members of the House of Representatives charged over their alleged role in the P10-billion PDAF scam.
Acting swiftly, the antigraft court’s Fourth Division threw out for lack of merit the governor’s petition for her to be detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center a few hours after her lawyers filed the three-page motion.
Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla are currently detained at the police detention facility at Camp Crame.
‘Emotional roller coaster’
The court did not discuss the reason for denying Lanete’s petition and set her arraignment for March 19. It ordered the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to “immediately” turn over the governor to the warden of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility in Camp Bagong Diwa.
“This has been an emotional roller coaster for Governor Lanete specially since she has not committed any crime. This comes as an emotional blow to her,” Laurence Arroyo, one of the governor’s lawyers, told reporters.
“This has affected her emotionally. She felt a bit sad and down. But she’s going to face the charges and vindicate herself and the name of her family,” he added.
Shielded from media
Wearing a simple white blouse, Lanete was accompanied by CIDG personnel, her lawyers and family members when she arrived at the Sandiganbayan at around 8 a.m. on Friday.
She was presented to the Fourth Division’s office of the Clerk of Court for the return of her arrest warrant and stayed inside the Sandiganbayan Sheriff’s Office until the court issued its order about eight hours later.
Next move is bail
Lanete shunned interviews with the reporters as her relatives and lawyers shielded her from photographers and television cameras.
Arroyo said they would not seek a reconsideration of the court’s decision and instead prepare for Lanete’s bail petition.
“If the evidence of the prosecution showed that her guilt is not strong, the court may grant her petition for bail,” he said.
The lawyer said the governor decided to turn herself in to CIDG chief Director Benjamin Magalong on Wednesday night after learning that she had been ordered arrested.
Arroyo said Lanete’s surrender was “her way to show that she will respect the legal process.”
Threats to security
In asking the court to order her detention at Camp Crame, Lanete cited several failed attempts on her life in the past and the alleged continued threats to her security.
“We felt that she would be more secured at the PNP Custodial Center but this issue is left to the discretion of the court … We have faith in the BJMP that they would be able to secure her,” Arroyo said.
In its Feb. 18 resolution, the court found probable cause to proceed with the trial of Lanete and ordered her arrest along with 30 of her coaccused.
“After personally evaluating the joint resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman and the supporting evidence … the court finds probable cause to hold the accused herein for trial for the crime of plunder,” a portion of the court’s ruling read.
Besides Lanete, also indicted for graft and plunder was former party-list Rep. Edgar Valdez.
On the other hand, former representatives Rodolfo Plaza (Agusan del Sur), Samuel Dangwa (Benguet) and Constantino Jaraula (Cagayan de Oro City) were charged with malversation and graft.
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