Miriam: Napoles should pay for ‘rock star’ jail status

The gov't spends P5,000 a day on Napoles and P54 on each of the 70,000 other ordinary prisoners. It's time she pays for the VIP treatment, says the senator.

'CHARGE HER.' Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago says the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam should pay for her VIP detention treatment at a police camp in Laguna. Photo by Romy Bugante/Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines – “Government does not even spend that much money to protect me and I have more enemies than Napoles!” 

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago called on President Benigno Aquino III to compel alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles to observe a so-called “pay-for-stay” program.

The senator urged Aquino to force Napoles to choose between an ordinary stay in jail at the government’s expense or stay in an “enhanced facility” at her expense.

She said the Philippine National Police (PNP) should stop spending “excessive public funds” amounting to P150,000 a month for Napoles’ stay at the Fort Sto Domingo police camp in Sta Rosa, Laguna. 

“This personality apparently enjoys a rock-star status because of allegations that she committed the crime of plunder in the P10-billion pork barrel scam,” Santiago said in a speech at the De La Salle University on Friday, March 14.

“Philippine state interest consists in the promotion of the truth about the pork barrel scandal. If Napoles as a person in interest refuses to cooperate by providing information which she apparently possesses about the scam, there is no acceptable reason why government should single her out for special treatment among the more than 70,000 detention prisoners in the country,” the senator said.

Santiago said her proposal is based on the President’s ordinance power, authorizing him to issue a memorandum order concerning a government office. Another legal basis is the President’s residual powers under the Administrative Code.

“In the United States, this is called the ‘Pay-for-Stay’ program. The American courts have upheld ‘Pay-for-Stay’ programs in such states as Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Tennessee, Ohio, and Pennsylvania,” she said.

The legal expert cited the Tillman v Correctional Facility case in the US Court of Appeals, where the Court upheld the system of charging inmates for “enhanced room and board” under the following rulings of constitutional law:

  • “Pay-for-Stay” does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, so long as the inability to pay the fees did not affect the subject prisoner’s access to needed services.
  • The program does not impose excessive fines, since the fees charged to the prisoner were not fines, but they were rehabilitative rather than punitive in nature.
  • There was no denial of due process because the American system provided a prisoner grievance procedure.
  • There was no violation of equal protection under the so-called “rational basis review,” where it is shown that there is a rational relationship between the end sought to be gained and the means employed.

Santiago said the landmark case showed that the judiciary should grant the President wide latitude in applying his power to control the executive department.

“The US Court of Appeals in the Tillman decision indicates that even if Tillman’s constitutional rights have been violated, the Court might still find that the violation was outweighed by the state’s interest in ‘sparing the taxpayers the cost of imprisonment.’”

Leonard Tillman is a former prisoner who was assessed a fee of $10 per day for housing costs stemming from two periods of incarceration in a county facility for state parole violations. 

Napoles faces a plunder complaint for supposedly conniving with top lawmakers to transfer their funds meant for development projects to her bogus non-governmental organizations. Whistleblowers said lawmakers got 40% to 60% of the project cost, the heads of implementing agencies got 10%, while Napoles pocketed the rest.

Napoles is being detained in connection with a separate illegal detention case. The government has yet to file a case against her in court over the pork barrel scam. 

Testifying before the Senate on November 7, 2013, Napoles denied any involvement in the scam and said she could not remember anything about it. The government has been spending for her stay in Laguna, medical check-ups, and the arrangement to bring her to the court and the Senate.  

‘Far cry from ordinary prisoners’

Santiago made a comparison of the expenses of Napoles and ordinary prisoners:

  • Napoles daily – P5,000; ordinary prisoner – P54
  • Napoles monthly – P150,000; ordinary prisoner – P1,612
  • Napoles yearly – P1.8 million; ordinary prisoner – P20,000

“The PNP should immediately bill Napoles under a Cost Recovery Program if she wishes to avail of protection for her security and safety, then the obvious legal remedy is for her to apply to the Witness Protection Program administrated by the Department of Justice.”

In making her proposal, Santiago echoed Senator Francis Escudero’s statement that government should not pay for Napoles’ special detention arrangement. Escudero called for Napoles to be transferred to an ordinary jail.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte though said last month that the PNP only follows the order of the court and Malacañang’s “hands are tied.” Rappler.com 

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