Napoles detention case trial may take a year
MANILA, Philippines – It may take a year to hear a serious illegal detention case, but alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles is not in a hurry.
At least, according to lead counsel Alfredo Villamor. Speaking to reporters after the first trial day of the case versus Napoles, Villamor said the defense team will prioritize the "quality of evidence" above all.
"S'yempre kung magtatagal, ayaw naman namin masyadong magtagal (Of course we don't want the trial to take so long). But we don't want to sacrifice the quality of the evidence we're going to present in exchange for haste," he said.
It's a stark contrast from the position that the Napoles camp took months ago, when Lorna Kapunan was lead counsel. Kapunan constantly told media Napoles was eager to leave detention.
Napoles is currently detained at the Fort Sto Domingo in Sta Rosa, Laguna, for serious illegal detention charges connected with the detention of Benhur Luy, Napoles' former aide. Luy was detained by Napoles and her brother Reynald Lim after Luy was caught dealing with pork barrel funds outside of Napoles' transactions. Lim is still at large.
A motion filed by Napoles on Tuesday, February 18, though, could open the path to freedom.
Napoles' former counsel Kapunan told media in October that her client had begun "talking to herself" and was seeing things at night.
Now Napoles faces another issue: her health. On Tuesday, Napoles, through her lawyers, filed an urgent motion to undergo medical examination because of suspected ovarian cancer.
Lawyer Bruce Rivera, a family friend and special counsel of Napoles, told Rappler that Napoles kept her medical woes to herself because "she didn't want her family to worry" and didn't want even more media attention.
"She was also hoping her bail motion would be granted and decided she'd undergo medical exams once she's out," he said.
If the court grants her motion, Napoles will finally step out of Fort Sto Domingo for the first time in months, albeit temporarily. But if tests prove her condition is serious, it could be grounds for her camp to file a motion seeking hospital arrest.
Napoles is set to testify before the court herself. According to the pre-trial order, which has yet to be signed by Napoles herself, the defense will present at least 18 witnesses.
On to apppeals court
Even as the trial proper begins, Villamor said they will file a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals. Napoles' motion for bail and subsequent motion for reconsideration were junked by Judge Elmo Alameda of Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150.
During the trial on Tuesday, the prosecution presented 4 witnesses: the NBI's Dante Berou, Merlina Sunas, Gertrudes Luy, and Anabelle Luy, all of whom testified during the bail hearings. Their testimonies will be adapted in the trial proper.
The prosecution will also be introducing 4 additional witnesses, including a representative from Metrobank. Napoles allegedly transferred Luy's Metrobank funds into a JLN account shortly after detaining him.
Nearly 5 months after her transfer to Fort Sto Domingo, "custodial responsibility" of Napoles was officially transferred from the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP SAF) to Region IV-A Police.
Fort Sto Domingo is a camp run by the PNP SAF. The switch in custodial responsibility was implemented weeks ago, according to PNP Spokesman Chief Superintendent Theodore Sindac.
Napoles stays at Fort Sto Domingo, but will be under the watch of the regional police. "The services of the SAF unit were badly needed for another duty," Sindac said. – Rappler.com