Janet Napoles gets life sentence for detaining Benhur Luy

MANILA, Philippines – Alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles was handed a life sentence by a Makati court, which found her guilty of illegally detaining her former employee Benhur Luy on Tuesday, April 14.

Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda sentenced Napoles to reclusion perpetua or a jail term of up to 40 years after finding her guilty in the serious illegal detention case filed against her by Luy, her relative and former assistant who became the whistleblower on the misuse of billions of lawmakers' funds.

Alameda ordered Napoles to pay Luy P50,000 as civil indemnity and P50,000 as moral damages. 

The Makati court also ordered Napoles' transfer from Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City to the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City.

Atty Diosfa Valencia, the clerk of court, said Camp Bagong Diwa will be given a copy of the commitment order to secure the arrangements for Napoles' transfer.

Valencia added that the Napoles camp may file an appeal within 15 days.

Napoles and her brother Reynald "Jojo" Lim are accused of detaining Luy from December 2012 to March 2013 after the two discovered Luy was dabbling into the same business of Napoles – tapping into lawmakers' pork barrel funds through fake non-governmental organizations. (READ: Napoles to Benhur: You stole my PDAF)

Government agencies later found Luy at the posh Pacific Plaza Towers in Taguig owned by Napoles.

In its decision, the Makati RTC said the prosecution was able to establish that Luy was illegally detained, and that Napoles ordered his detention. 

The court added that Napoles "willingly agreed to be part of the conspiracy" with her brother to detain Luy against his will.

"Janet had ample opportunity to order the release of Benhur if she wished to but she never did. She did not make any effort to perform an act to detach herself from the conspiracy to commit the crime that would exempt her from criminal liability," the decision read.

Meanwhile, the case against Lim, who remains at large, has been ordered archived.

Napoles surrendered to President Benigno Aquino III on August 28, 2013, after a P10-million bounty for her arrest was announced. 

Luy, a cousin of Napoles, was her longtime assistant before he eventually became the principal witness in the plunder complaint filed against her. 

Napoles earlier refused to enter a plea on the serious illegal detention charge against her.  Katerina Francisco and Michael Bueza/Rappler.com