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Napoles camp 'shocked' over Taguig jail transfer

MANILA, Philippines – She has been living in Fort Sto Domingo, Laguna, without electricity and water for the past few days, but the court-ordered transfer of alleged pork barrel scam “mastermind” Janet Lim Napoles to a Taguig jail still came as a "shock" to her camp.

On Friday, July 25, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan ordered Napoles’ “immediate transfer” to a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig city. Her lawyers said they are all "saddened" by the decision.

“We are saddened and a little bit shocked. We were already committed to Fort Sto Domingo. We thought that the first court’s commitment order would prevail,” Napoles’ lawyer and spokesman Bruce Rivera told Rappler in a phone interview.

Napoles, who faces graft and plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan, has been under detention for almost a year now, at Fort Sto Domingo in Laguna. Aside from graft and plunder, Napoles is accused of kidnapping former aide turned  whistleblower Benhur Luy.

Parts of Laguna have been without power since Typhoon Glenda (Ramassun) made landfall in the country more than a week ago, including Sta Rosa, where Fort Sto Domingo is located.

At around 2:30 pm Friday, Napoles was escorted by police from the Sandiganbayan in Quezon city back to Laguna. (READ: Sandigan may order Napoles transfer to regular jail)

Once in Bagong Diwa, Napoles is likely to join her co-accused in the scam, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s former chief of staff Gigi Reyes who stays at the BJMP facility

In contrast, the senators facing charges in connection with the scam – Senators Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr and Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada – are detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame. Enrile is confined at the PNP General Hospital in the same camp.  

Health, security concerns

Speaking a few minutes after the Sandiganbayan’s 3rd division’s decision was announced, Rivera said they would “exhaust all legal measures” so the court would reconsider its decision.

Napoles’ lawyers for the plunder and graft case, Stephen David and Evita Magnolia Ansaldo, are already drafting a motion for reconsideration, said Rivera.

“Mrs. Napoles is not yet fully healed. We don’t know the conditions [inside the BJMP facility] yet, although it’s not likely to be different from the conditions [in Fort Sto Domingo],” said Rivera.

Almost 3 months ago, Napoles underwent a complete hysterectomy at a Makati hospital to remove a mass in her uterus.

Villaester said the BJMP has yet to determine where Napoles will stay. “We’re still assessing if she can be put inside a regular cell. But she’s a high-profile detainee so we might isolate her,” he told Rappler.

Rivera said it’s the presence of other detainees that worries Napoles’ family and legal team. “She’s a high-profile detainee. She has a lot of enemies and they put her in a jail,” he said.

Napoles was originally committed by a Makati court to the Makati city jail, but she was transfered after the warden said they could not give her ample security. 

“She did not have water or power [in Fort Sto Domingo] but we didn’t complain. In Fort Sto Domingo, she will be protected to a certain point,” added Rivera. Napoles is the sole detainee inside the PNP Special Action Force camp in Laguna where visitors are tightly screened and monitores.

In contrast, the BJMP female dorm has an “ideal capacity” of 78 inmates but currently houses over 138 detainees. At least 4 detainees are assigned to each cell.

Security inside the “camp within a camp” in Taguig is just as strict. Would-be visitors will have to go through 3 gates before reaching the BJMP compound, said Villaester. Once a visitor enters the BJMP camp, there is another check point.

Reyes stays at a “livelihood room” on the first floor of the BJMP’s female dormitory in the camp. BJMP National Capital Region (NCR) spokesman Inspector Aris Villaester said this is because Reyes has a hard time going up and down the stairs without assistance. 

The first floor of the Taguig jail is where the offices are located, while the next two floors are for male detainees. Female detainees occupy the 4th and top floor, which has an entrance separate from the male detainees' floors. –