Napoles back in Taguig jail
Two of the three Sandiganbayan divisions handling the plunder cases of the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind, Janet Lim-Napoles, have ordered her detention in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
The antigraft court’s First and Third Divisions on Monday denied Napoles’ plea to be transferred to the National Bureau of Investigation Custodial Center in Manila because of threats to her life.
Though the Fifth Division has yet to resolve the motions before it, the Sandiganbayan executive clerk of court, Ma. Teresa Pabulayan, said the two commitment orders could be immediately enforced since they were already issued.
At past 6 p.m. on Monday, the Sandiganbayan sheriff left the court to serve the commitment orders at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City, where Napoles was being held, and bring her to the Camp Bagong Diwa detention center of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) later in the night.
On the heels of Napoles’ acquittal for the illegal detention of pork barrel whistle-blower Benhur Luy, the Office of the Ombudsman requested that she be detained again in the BJMP center in Taguig, just like before her April 2015 conviction.
Premature to invoke safety
During the open court hearing on Monday, the acting First Division chair, Justice Geraldine Faith Econg, said it was “premature” for Napoles to invoke safety concerns in seeking to be placed outside normal custody.
“There is yet no evidence that accused Napoles will not be safe and secure at the BJMP,” Econg said.
The court also noted that nothing in the motion supported Napoles’ claim of being “bombarded with everyday death threats.”
Likewise, the Third Division headed by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang did not buy Napoles’ claim of being in danger.
Threats not explained
Tang, in a separate hearing in the afternoon, subjected Napoles’ camp to a barrage of questions on how the anonymous threats were communicated, how her belongings were “ransacked” and if there was a security breach.
Justice Bernelito Fernandez also asked if the Napoles camp was saying the BJMP could not guarantee her safety and security.
Lawyer Romeo Villarta was not able to explain the nature of the threats. He said he had “no knowledge” of the specifics of Napoles’ situation.
“It’s not enough to allege. You must prove as a matter of fact that these threats exist,” Tang said. “Allegation is not proof. You know that.”
Econg said Section 4 of Republic Act No. 10867, or the NBI Reorganization and Modernization Act, did not mandate the Department of Justice (DOJ) agency to “keep custody of persons undergoing and awaiting trial.”
Tang said Section 3, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court required an arrested person to be held at a police station or jail.
She also pointed out that the NBI was not under the jurisdiction of the BJMP.
Nonbailable plunder cases
Tang also cited Section 63 of RA 6975, or the Department of the Interior and Local Government Act of 1990, which provided that jails be used for the detention of persons awaiting trial.
Monday’s developments meant Ombudsman prosecutors had obtained the approval of two of the three Sandiganbayan divisions handling the nonbailable plunder cases of Napoles.
The divisions are trying the P224.5-million and P172.8-million cases of former Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile, respectively.
No order from Fifth
The Fifth Division, which handles the P183.8-million case of former Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, still has to resolve the prosecution’s request.
Prosecutors on Monday complied with the directive to reply to Napoles’ motion for transfer to the NBI.
The Court of Appeals on May 5 ordered Napoles’ immediate release from the Correctional Institute for Women, administered by the DOJ-attached Bureau of Corrections, after overturning her April 2015 conviction for the illegal detention of Luy.
But Napoles still has to be detained as the three Sandiganbayan divisions found the evidence strong enough so far to deny her the right to post bail in the three senators’ cases.
It was the businesswoman who set up foundations through which pork barrel funds of lawmakers were funneled in exchange for certain senators and congressmen pocketing up to 50 percent of the funds, which were meant to help ease poverty.
Napoles and her foundations also took hefty cuts of the pork barrel Priority Development Assistance Fund.
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