SC: Napoles plea for release, house arrest over COVID fears denied
MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has denied pork barrel fund scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles’ motion to be released on bail or recognizance or a house arrest for a humanitarian reason due to COVID-19.
Napoles, along with deceased lawyer Richard Cambe, was convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan Special First Division for allocating over P200-million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla.
In her urgent motion, Napoles said she is at risk of contracting Covid-19 inside the prison due to her Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Hypertension, an underlying Covid-19 health condition.
She said since there are compelling reasons to support her acquittal from plunder, she has the right to seek the application of the Office of the Court of Administrator Circular No. 91-2020, which mandates the enforcement of an accused right to bail and speedy trial.
She also raised the “Nelson Mandela Rules” that provide the basis for releasing persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) in times of public health emergencies.
But the high court, in denying her request, said, “the presumption of innocence and the constitutional right to bail end after the accused’s conviction or a capital offense.”
The high court added that there are “no compelling reasons to justify a provisional release on ‘humanitarian grounds.'”
It explained that the circular from the Office of the Court Administrator is not a blanket order to release all persons deprived of liberty due to COVID-19.
“It merely reminds the trial courts to effectively implement the existing policies laid down by the Constitution to effectively implement the existing policies laid down by the Constitution and the laws regarding the accused’s right to bail,” the high court said.
It added that the Nelson Mandela rule does not provide sufficient basis to grant bail post-conviction.
The high court also pointed out that “the Constitutional and statutory requisites for the grant of bail are neither suspended nor supplanted by the existence of a pandemic.
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