Kapunan resigns as Napoles lawyer

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Lorna Kapunan has resigned as lawyer of Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Wednesday, October 30.

Asked if Kapunan quit as counsel, de Lima said, "Yes, but I don't know why."  

De Lima said the information was confirmed by the handling prosecutors through Prosecutor General Claro Arellano. 

Interviewed on dzMM, Kapunan said on Wednesday afternoon, she was on her way to Fort Sto Domingo to get the conforme "for our withdrawal on the serious illegal detention case." The case will now be handled by lawyer Alfredo Villamor, who was collaborating counsel.

Kapunan has yet to file a motion to withdraw appearance from the court. This can happen next week.

Kapunan also said she has to discuss with her client whether or not she will be out of the picture insofar as other pending cases against Napoles are concerned. 

Lawyers knowledgeable about the resignation said there was a difference in strategy between Kapunan and Villamor. 

COUNSEL. Collaborating counsel Alfredo Villamor knows Benhur Luy well. Photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

COUNSEL. Collaborating counsel Alfredo Villamor knows Benhur Luy well.

Photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

Villamor, who does not belong to Kapunan's law office, was a former lawyer of JLN Corporation, the flagship company of Napoles. He was the first lawyer who faced Benhur Luy, key witness in the pork barrel scam case.  

Friends with Luy

Villamor and Luy know each other quite well. While he was grilling Luy on Tuesday, October 29, Villamor quipped, "Magkaibigan kami nito!" (We are friends!)

The feisty lawyer was absent during the defense panel's cross examination of whistleblower Benhur Luy at Branch 150 of the Makati Regional Trial Court on Wednesday, October 30.

Napoles and her fugitive brother Reynald Lim are facing charges of serious illegal detention for allegedly detaining Luy from December 2012 to March 2013.

A few minutes into the cross examination, presiding Judge Elmo Alameda called for a short recess. Shortly after, prosecutor Chris Garvida requested for a meeting inside Judge Alameda's chambers, along with Villamor. Neither Villamor nor Garvida talked about their huddle because they were barred by Alameda from doing so.

Clerk of Court Diosfa Valencia said they have not received from Kapunan any motion to withdraw as counsel for Napoles. She added that should Kapunan file a motion to withdraw as counsel and if the court approves it, the case against Napoles will not be affected since Villamor will still serve as counsel.

Early signs

When asked where Kapunan was or why she didn't show up, Villamor told the media he didn't know. Asked whether this was unusual – for a lead counsel to skip the cross examination – Villamor dodged the question and instead asked: what do you think?

On October 25, Kapunan declared her client will not be using a "wheelchair defense" or seek hospital arrest.

Napoles was brought to the hospital the day before because of pain, nausea and constant vomiting. She was returned to her detention quarters in Fort Sto Domingo within the same day on October 24.

Napoles is scheduled to appear before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on November 7. - with reports from Bea Cupin, Carmela Fonbuena, and Angela Casauay/Rappler.com