Sandiganbayan division bars Napoles transfer to DOJ custody

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 10 2018 02:56 PM

Security escorts Janet Napoles after her court hearing at the Sandiganbayan. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - A Sandiganbayan division has denied the request of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles to be transferred from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility in Camp Bagong Diwa to the custody of the Department of Justice because of her possible testimony on another batch of pork barrel scam cases.

The resolution of the 3rd Division dated May 3 comes after similar decisions of the 1st and 5th Divisions which handle the two other non-bailable plunder cases of Napoles.

The court said the implementing rules and regulations of the Witness Protection Program of the DOJ prohibits the transfer of a detainee who is already under the jurisdiction of a court. 

Napoles made the request after the decision of resigned Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to grant her provisional state witness status.

But the court gave weight to the assertion of the new DOJ secretary, Menardo Guevarra, who said that provisional coverage does not give Napoles the privilege of staying with the DOJ. 

“Significantly, in his manifestation in lieu of comment, DOJ Secretary Guevarra expressly states that the provisional coverage of accused Napoles under the WPP does not confer upon her an actionable right to demand detention or custody under the said program, and that the fact that she is under detention pursuant to a process by the Court, would be taken into consideration in the final resolution of accused Napoles’s application for coverage under the WPP,” the court said in its resolution penned by Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice and 3rd Division Chairperson Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Bernelito Fernandez and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta.

The court also asserted that it already has jurisdiction over Napoles and it may only lose her if she is declared a state witness in her pending case.

There is also no valid reason for Napoles to be transferred to the DOJ for fear of her security after a surprise raid of the BJMP, which turned out to be legitimate inspection.

“However, in her comment on the subject motion, the said warden, on behalf of the BJMP, assured the court that they shall continue to fulfill their responsibility over accused Napoles should the court deny the subject motion,” the court said.