Court orders Napoles transfer to Taguig jail

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan 3rd division on Friday, July 25, ordered the immediate transfer of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles to a jail in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

This, after the court resolved that her current place of detention at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) Training School in Fort Sto Domingo in Laguna "is not a jail." 

In its minute resolution dated July 24, the 3rd division cited a rule that says a person "charged with the commission of a crime must be detained at the jail nearest to the Court." Fort Sto Domingo is clearly far from the Sandiganbayan in Quezon City.

Furthermore, those awaiting trial, according to the law, must be kept in jail. The SAF training facility where Napoles is, does not qualify as a jail facility.

On Wednesday, July 23, her lawyers had opposed her transfer to a jail facility. Prosecutors handling the plunder and graft cases also pending with the Sandiganbayan's 1st and 5th divisions had previously asked the court to order the transfer of Napoles to a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City. 

Escorted by police, Napoles left the Sandiganbayan premises before 2:30 pm Friday and headed to Fort Sto Domingo. 

The Sandiganbayan's 3rd Division Clerk of Court Dennis Pulma read the last paragraph of the dispositive portion of the minute resolution issued by the court.

He said, "The said Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) is hereby directed to cause the immediate transfer of the said accused from the PNP-SAF Training School in Fort Sto Domingo, Sta Rosa City, Laguna, to its facility.”

Napoles' lawyers Stephen David and Evita Magnolia Ansaldo had previously cited security risks that warrant her continued stay at Fort Sto Domingo in Laguna. 

Napoles faces plunder and graft charges in connection with the diversion of lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to dubious non-governmental organizations. 

The BJMP, as of early Friday afternoon, had not received the court's commitment order.

Illegal detention case

The 3rd division's transfer order however conflicts with a standing order issued by Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch 150 on August 30, 2013 in connection with Napoles' serious illegal detention charge. The RTC ordered her transfer to the Fort Sto Domingo facility.

Besides plunder and graft, she is also accused of detaining against his will principal witness in the PDAF scam, Benhur Luy, from December 2012 to March 2013. Luy was rescued by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation. Serious illegal detention is also a non-bailable offense.

The Makati RTC has yet to be furnished a copy of the Sandiganbayan's 3rd division commitment order. Given the conflicting orders, the PNP said it would seek clarification before carrying out the 3rd division's directive.

Napoles' lawyer Stephen David said that the jurisdiction of the Makati court should be respected by the Sandiganbayan. Her other lawyer Bruce Rivera also said the courts will have to agree which commitment order will prevail. 

The PNP initially said they would follow the Sandiganbayan, but upon review, realized it would be best to settle custody before moving Napoles. 

PNP Spokesman Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac said BJMP personnel were in Laguna Friday waiting to get Napoles and move her to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig. The PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), which has custodial responsibility over Napoles, was ready to hand her over but realized it would be better to seek clarification from the court first.

They agreed the BJMP would return on Monday and that the PNP National Capital Region Police Office would issue the BJMP a "certificate of appearance" so that they would not be sanctioned by the anti-graft court.

Napoles' lawyer, Rivera, confirmed that in the meantime she will stay in Laguna "for the weekend." 

Conflicting orders

The 1st and 3rd divisions of the Sandiganbayan also differed on where to commit Napoles. While the 1st division had ordered the PNP-CIDG to keep her in its custody and not move her until further orders from the court, the 3rd division has put her under the custody of the BJMP, and has ordered her transfer.

The 1st division had sought the comment of the Makati RTC on her detention.

The 1st division is hearing the cases against Senator Ramon Revilla Jr, while the 3rd division is hearing those against Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. The 5th division has been assigned to the cases of Senator Jinggoy Estrada. Napoles is co-accused in the plunder cases involving all 3 senators. – with reports by Buena Bernal and Bea Cupin/Rappler.com