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Marathon hearings next week on Napoles bail plea

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Marathon hearings have been scheduled for Friday, September 27, in relation to a motion for bail filed by alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

This is aside from her arraignment on Monday, September 23, for the serious illegal detention charge she is facing.

In the first hearing on the motion for bail Friday, September 20, Napoles’ counsel Lorna Kapunan asked the court to hear and resolve the bail plea by next week or else they would “insist on her release.”

Napoles, although tagged in the systematic misuse of billions in lawmakers' funds, is detained in Fort Sto Domingo in Sta Rosa, Laguna, for another case.

The justice department has charged her and her brother Reynald "Jojo" Lim with serious illegal detention for holding her employee and second cousin Benhur Luy, who has since turned state witness on the scam.

Napoles surrendered to Presiden Benigno Aquino III on August 28, while Lim is at large.

Napoles was originally set to be arraigned on September 9, but Judge Elmo Alameda postponed this to September 23 due to additional motions filed by the defense.

Napoles has filed 4 motions before Makati RTC Branch 150. These are:

Judge Alameda has denied all these except for the motion for bail.

Serious illegal detention is a non-bailable offense. However, the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure allows for bail when the evidence of guilt is not strong.

Unprepared prosecution

Friday’s hearing showed a seemingly unprepared prosecution.

Kapunan was moving for the prosecution to present evidence on Monday, then for the defense to do so on September 27. Otherwise, she said, “it would be unfair to restrict the liberty of [Napoles]” and therefore they would “insist on her release.”

To this, Makati senior prosecutor Christopher Garvida said, "Is she joking?"

Judge Alameda said the court would not be able to decide on the motion for bail without the prosecution's presentation of evidence.

The prosecution said it would present "at least 8" witnesses to prove that the evidence of Napoles' guilt in the serious illegal detention case is strong.

They will, however, be ready for marathon hearings only by October 7, they said.

Kapunan said the prosecution should have been ready with their witnesses as early as September 9, the original date for Napoles’ arraignment.

But Kapunan said that if the prosecution could not present evidence during the hearing, "it only goes to show that evidence of guilt is not strong."

Garvida said the prosecution would have a hard time scheduling witnesses since some were also summoned by the Senate for their probe into the pork barrel scam.

Kapunan insisted that the serious illegal detention case should be considered more important than the Senate probe. She also emphasized the necessity of Napoles' motion for bill of particulars.

"The accused should not be made to undergo the rigors of a protracted trial. We want to plead correctly," said Kapunan.

Clerk of court Diosfa Valencia said the hearings on September 27 may extend to another date, depending on the number of witnesses presented.

Case politically motivated?

In their motion, Napoles' lawyers argued that the serious illegal detention case is "obviously politically motivated" because the "nuclear issue in all these hullabaloo is the alleged Pork Barrel Scam."

"The failure to pacify the public outrage caused by this scandal, by reason of the authorities' failure to gather sufficient and hard evidence to directly pin [Napoles], has moved them to search for other ways to get her, not necessarily legal and allowable, to satisfy the public's craving for 'justice,'" her lawyers alleged.

They also cried foul over "countless violations" of the law and of Napoles' rights.

Senate President Franklin Drilon earlier floated the possibility of holding Napoles' arraignment for serious illegal detention at Fort Sto Domingo. As of posting, Napoles' camp has yet to file a motion before the Supreme Court to request the change of venue. – Rappler.com