Two Sandiganbayan divisions order Napoles’ return to Bagong Diwa
Vince F. Nonato
Two of the three Sandiganbayan divisions handling the plunder cases of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles have ordered her detention at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
The Sandiganbayan First and Third Divisions on Monday denied Napoles’s plea to be transferred instead to the National Bureau of Investigation custodial center in Manila over alleged threats to her life.
Although the Fifth Division has yet to resolve the motions before it, Sandiganbayan Executive Clerk of Court Ma. Teresa Pabulayan said the two commitment orders can be immediately enforced since they were already issued.
As of press time, however, the commitment orders have yet to be served by the Sandiganbayan sheriff’s office on the CIW and the BJMP.
On the heels of Napoles’s acquittal for the illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy, the Office of the Ombudsman requested that she be detained again at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility just like before her April 2015 conviction.
Premature to invoke safety
During an open court hearing on Monday morning, 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 observed during the hearing.
The said court also noted that nothing in the motion supported her claim of being “bombarded with everyday death threats.”
Likewise, the Third Division under Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang did not buy Napoles’s claim of being in danger.
No explanation on threats
Tang, in a separate hearing in the afternoon, subjected Napoles’s camp to a barrage of questions on how the anonymous threats were communicated, how Napoles’s belongings were “ransacked,” and if there was a security breach.
Justice Bernelito Fernandez also asked if the Napoles camp is saying the BJMP cannot guarantee her safety and security.
Lawyer Romeo Villarta was not able to explain the nature of the threats, however. He said several times that he had “no knowledge” of the specifics of Napoles’s 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.”
Legal bases for BJMP custody
Econg said Section 4 of Republic Act No. 10867, or the NBI Reorganization and Modernization Act, did not mandate the Department of Justice-attached agency to “keep custody of persons undergoing and awaiting trial.”
Meanwhile, Tang cited that Section 3, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court requires an arrested person to be held under custody at a police station or jail. She pointed out that NBI is neither and does not belong under the jurisdiction of the BJMP.
She also cited Section 63 of the Republic Act No. 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 have secured the approval of two of the three Sandiganbayan divisions handling the nonbailable plunder cases of Napoles.
The said divisions tackle the P224.5-million and P172.8-million cases of former Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile, respectively.
No order from the Fifth
The Fifth Division, which handles the P183.8-million case of former Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, still has to resolve the prosecution’s request. Prosecutors on Monday complied with the directive to reply to Napoles’s motion for transfer to the NBI.
The Court of Appeals on May 5 ordered Napoles’s immediate release from the CIW, administered by the DoJ-attached Bureau of Corrections, after overturning her April 2015 conviction for the illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy.
But, Napoles still has to be detained as the three aforementioned Sandiganbayan divisions found the evidence so far strong enough to deny her the right to post bail in the three senators’ cases. #