MANILA – The legal team handling the defense of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles in her serious illegal detention case has again been revamped.
During the resumption of the trial proper on the serious illegal detention case filed by Napoles' former aide, pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy, lawyer Bruce Rivera said he is now the lead counsel for Napoles.
Rivera's announcement, however, surprised lawyer Stephen David, who said Napoles did not inform him that he had been replaced as the lead counsel in the case.
David said he will have to talk to Napoles about this supposed decision.
Rivera said he was convinced only last night by Napoles to take over as lead counsel in her serious illegal detention case.
Rivera and David had been at odds over several pronouncements and decisions in the pork barrel case where Napoles has been tagged as the alleged mastermind.
Rivera earlier denied David's announcement that Napoles would return P100 million to P200 million to the government in exchange for immunity from charges.
The change in Napoles' defense team makes Rivera the fourth lawyer to handle the businesswoman's serious illegal detention case.
The first lawyer tasked to defend Napoles in the case was Lorna Kapunan. The veteran lawyer quit, citing a "difference of opinion on strategy" with co-counsel Alfredo Villamor.
Villamor then took over the case but eventually dropped it as well. David replaced him.
Villamor was later tagged as one of Napoles' alleged agents in the pork barrel scam, which saw billions of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations allegedly plundered.
He formally informed the court of his withdrawal from the case today. He cited personal reasons.
In today's hearing at the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 under Judge Elmo Alameda, Luy again recounted his personal struggle while in detention.
He added he has been having sleepless nights, and he continues to receive threats to his life because of his revelation.
Luy also told the court how his peso and dollar accounts were allegedly transferred to Napoles'.
Judge Alameda asked Luy how much he wants to receive in damages, but Luy said he would just let the court decide.
The trial proper will resume on July 1. – reports from Dennis Datu, dzMM; and Doris Bigornia, ABS-CBN News