MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – With the accused refusing to enter a plea, Makati Judge Elmo Alameda entered “not guilty” for Janet Lim Napoles, who appeared – but reportedly didn’t utter a word – at his sala on Monday, September 23.
Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam, was arraigned on Monday for the non-bailable charge of serious illegal detention filed against him by the justice department on behalf of her former employee.
Benhur Luy, who is now state witness in the investigation into the systematic plunder of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund, was rescued by government agents in March after he was allegedly detained by Napoles and her brother Reynald “Jojo” Lim for 3 months.
Napoles surrendered to President Benigno Aquino III on August 28 after a P10-million bounty for her arrest was announced. Her brother remains at large.
On Monday, Napoles refused to enter a plea before Judge Alameda, given her pending motions with the Court of Appeals to stop the proceedings against her.
Alameda entered the “not guilty” plea for Napoles, said her counsel Lorna Kapunan.
“According to Rule 116 of the Rules of Court, kung ang akusado ay ayaw mag-enter ng plea, ang korte mismo ang magsasabi ng not guilty plea,” said Kapunan. (If an accused does not want to enter a plea, the court itself will enter the ‘not guilty’ plea.)
The judge also rendered moot Napoles’ urgent motion to move her arraignment to Fort Sto Domingo in Sta Rosa, Laguna, citing security risks. She had the motion filed at around 10 am, just before she was scheduled to leave the camp.
“The threats against Janet’s life and security have now become even graver and more imminent due to the said filing before the Office of the Ombudsman of Plunder and Malversation charges,” Napoles’ lawyers said in the motion.
Napoles is detained at the police training camp after the administration determined that it would be risky for her to be held at the Makati city jail. Two security convoys brought Napoles to the Makati court.
The Makati City hall of justice was heavily guarded since morning for the 1:30 pm arraignment of Napoles. Members of the Philippine National Police, its Special Action Force, and the Makati Mapsa stood guard outside the courtroom.
Napoles arrived in the courtroom wearing a bullet proof vest and helmet, and accompanied by her lawyer Kapunan and members of PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
Napoles, looking calm, did not speak during her arraignment, said Clerk of Court Diosfa Valencia. There was information that Napoles was not feeling well prior to leaving Fort Sto Domingo.
Pre-trial schedule was not yet determined, pending a hearing on Napoles’ motion for bail.
The PNP said Napoles was back in Fort Sto Domingo at around 3:10 pm. – with Angela Casauay/Rappler.com