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Sandiganbayan rejects Janet Napoles’ bid for custody transfer

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Photo: Philippine Star 

 

QUEZON CITY — Alleged pork barrel fund scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles will remain in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

 

This as the Sandiganbayan has denied the petition of Napoles to transfer her to a government safehouse.

 

Napoles had been placed by then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II under provisional protection as state witness in the pork barrel fund scam.

 

The Sandiganbayan found strong evidence against Napoles to hold her for trial in connection with the multi-billion-peso scam.

 

Meanwhile, newly-appointed ad interim secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Menardo Guevarra will give top priority to review the controversial drug case involving Cebu businessman Peter Lim and self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and Janet Lim Napoles.

 

Guevarra said he will also make priority to review the decision of his predecessor, Vitaliano Aguirre II, to place alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles under provisional coverage of the Witness Protection Program (WPP).

 

“I will give top priority to a review of recent DOJ actions on Kerwin Espinosa and Napoles. I will reserve any judgment though till I have thoroughly studied the matter,” Guevarra said.

 

In a four-page ruling, the First Division pointed out that Napoles is “presently under detention for a lawful case.”

 

The anti-graft court has already denied her bail petition in connection with the P224.5-million plunder case of former Senator Bong Revilla.

 

The resolution stressed that her protective custody under the witness protection program would be “contrary to the clear and express import” of Article XI, Section 1 of the 2012 implementing rules and regulations of the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act.

 

The provision reads: “The Program shall not take into protective custody a witness who is under detention for any lawful cause. However, it shall direct the custodian of the witness to take necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of the witness.”

 

“Notably, the said provision does not admit of any exception. Verily, the denial of the instant motion is warranted under the premises,” it added.

 

The resolution was penned by Associate Justice Efren N. de la Cruz and concurred in by Associate Justices Geraldine Faith A. Econg and Edgardo M. Caldona.

 

In her previous request for transfer of custody, Napoles cited the Department of Justice’s February 27 approval of her provisional admission into the Witness Protection Program.

 

Napoles also said she wanted to be in a secure facility because of the intimidation and threats to her life inside the detention cell at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

 

Napoles has pending plunder and graft cases before the other divisions (Third and Fifth) of the Sandiganbayan.

 

As of press time, the Third and Fifth Divisions, which handle the P172.8-million and P183.8-million plunder cases of former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, have yet to issue their resolutions on Napoles’ motion.

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