How Napoles ended up in Malacañang

Negotiations for the surrender of Napoles begin with Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda who calls lawyer Lorna Kapunan to confirm reports her client wanted to turn herself in

SPECIAL TREATMENT?: Janet Lim Napoles surrenders to President Aquino. Malacañang photo

MANILA, Philippines — Wearing a hoodie and accompanied by another woman “carrying her things,” Janet Lim Napoles at 9:08 pm Wednesday, August 28, surrendered to Malacañang officials who met her at the Heritage Park, a cemetery in Taguig City. 

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said he did not initially recognize Napoles until she picked her phone to answer the call of her lawyer Lorna Kapunan, who brought Lacierda to Taguig. 

Napoles and her companion were frisked by security officials who were tapped to  secure her. She boarded a government vehicle to bring her to Malacañang. 

Napoles supposedly fears for her life although Malacañang could not detail the threat that would justify the special treatment Malacañang gave the country’s most recent notorious fugitive. 

“Ang sabi ni Attorney Kapunan sa amin, ‘Given the situation, siya lang ang mapagkakatiwalaan ni Mrs Napoles,” Lacierda said, referring to the President. (Attorney Kapunan told us, ‘Given the situation, he’s the only one Mrs Napoles could trust.)

Special treatment

MUGSHOTS: Police officers show the media mugshots of Janet Lim Napoles. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel/Rappler

Lacierda defended the special treatment. “The presence of Mrs Napoles adds to finding out the truth. The President views this matter very seriously,” he said.

At 9:37 pm, Napoles arrived in Malacañang. She was first checked by doctors before she came face to face with President Benigno Aquino III, who spoke with her and her lawyer for 10 minutes.

The Cabinet’s big guns were in that meeting: Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr, Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, Communications Undersecretary Manolo Quezon, and Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte.

“The only thing they discussed was the request of Attorney Kapunan dahil may banta sa buhay niya. We made sure her safety is secure,” said Lacierda. (“The only thing they discussed was the request of Attorney Kapunan because of the threat to her life.”)

Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, in separate interviews, said there were discussions on the possiblity she would turn state witness. He did not provide details.

‘Damay-damay na tayo’

President Aquino later turned over Napoles to Roxas but he decided to join them in Camp Crame, where the President himself checked where Napoles would be detained.

They decided against turning her over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which is investigating Napoles because of her “issues with NBI.” Lacierda did not elaborate.

The NBI has been the lead agency in the Napoles scam probe. Its agents have spent the last two weeks looking for Napoles and her brother Reynald Lim, who remains at large. He supposedly is set to voluntarily surrender but pending that, the P10-M reward for him remains in effect. 

Noong paalis na kami [ng Malacañang], sabi ni Pangulong Aquino, ‘Tutal puyat na tayo, damay damay na tayo,” Lacieda narrated. (When we were leaving Malacañang, the President said, “Since we all lack sleep anyway, let’s all be in this together.)

Pagdating doon, (When she arrived there) she was brought to a holding area and then the booking procedure. The President wanted to make sure that the area was secure. He checked the premises then left,” Lacierda said.

The surrender of Napoles ends 14 days of search for her. An arrest warrant was issued on August 14 over charges she illegally detained her cousin-turned-whistleblower Benhur Luy, who accused her of masterming a multi-billion pork barrel scam. 

IN DANGER: Janet Lim Napoles says she fears for her life. Malacañang photo

Lacierda called

In Lacierda’s own chronology presented to the media Thursday, August 29, he said everything began with him seeing a crawler (news brief) on ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel, on Wednesday at 12:37 pm.

The crawler quoted Kapunan as saying that Napoles was willing to surrender. This was shortly after Aquino announced the P10-million bounty for anyone who could give information that will lead to the arrest of Napoles. 

Lacierda said he called first to confirm the report. Kapunan told him her client wanted to surrender — but to President Aquino. 

Lacierda and Kapunan used to work at the law firm of the late Sen Raul Roco — which was then named Roco Buñag Kapunan. Lacierda worked at the firm for about 3 years before pursuing graduate studies at the Asian Institute of Management.

“I informed them (Palace) that according to Attorney Lorna Kapunan, Napoles was willing to surrender,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda informed the President, who immediately coordinated with Roxas to arrange a team that could secure Napoles. 

Where to meet?

The vehicle was ready as soon as Kapunan gave Lacierda the address where they could meet. He left Malacañang at 6:50 pm. Roxas, on the other hand, was in Camp Crame to prepare the place where Napoles would be held.

“In my sense she (Kapunan) was not in direct contact with Napoles. We were going back and forth on where to meet,” he added.

They eventually agreed to meet at Whitespace in Pasong Tamo, Makati City, where a benefit concert was being held at the venue.

“When I reached Whitespace, I saw Lorna and apparently, together with Lorna in the vehicle was Mr Jimmy Napoles [the husband of Janet Napoles],” Lacierda said.

They then proceeded to Heritage Park, a cemetery. 

“So we went to Heritage. I was informing the President of the status, informing him where I was. The President was concerned [about] the situation,” Lacierda said.

They arrived at the cemetery at 8:06 pm. Napoles arrived an hour later, at 9:08 pm. 

At 9:37 pm, they arrived in Malacañang. Nagpa-security check sila tapos si Mrs Napoles ay tiningnan ng doctor. Pagkatapos noon, nag-usap na sila ni Pangulo. Nandoon si Secretary Almendras, Secretary Carandang, Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa, Abigail Valte, Manolo Quezon,” he said. (They underwent a security check then Mrs Napoles was examined by a doctor. Afterwards, she spoke with the President. Also present were Secretary [Rene] Almendras, Secretary [Ricky] Carandang, Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa, Abigail Valte, Manolo Quezon.)

“Attorney Kapunan thanked the President that he received Napoles,” Lacierda added.

President Aquino then talked to Napoles and Kapunan for 10 minutes. –