Napoles may join ex-maid in jail

MANILA, Philippines – Should Janet Lim-Napoles be jailed in Makati City, it would be the supreme irony.

She might just share a cell with a former maid, whom she had put behind bars after allegedly setting her up for qualified theft.

In February this year, Cadelina Domingo, Napoles’ maid for 10 years, was arrested for stealing and has since been detained at the Makati City Jail in Guadalupe, Rappler learned.

Lawyer Levito Baligod, counsel of pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy, said he learned about Domingo’s case from other former Napoles employees who are now also testifying on the scam.

An arrest warrant was issued by the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 on Wednesday, August 14, against Napoles and her brother Reynaldo “Jojo” Lim for serious illegal detention.

They are accused of holding Luy against his will from December 2012 until agents of the National Bureau of Investigation rescued him on March 22, 2013.

A set-up

Domingo reportedly decided to leave Napoles’ employ because she could not keep up with household chores anymore.

Every day, after finishing her tasks late in the evening, the maid would be asked by Napoles to give her a massage from the time she arrived at around midnight until the wee hours. Domingo would be able to sleep at 3 am, only to rise again early morning.

“She wanted to go home. Hirap na hirap na raw siya sa trabaho (The work had become too burdensome for her),” Baligod quoted the other former Napoles househelps.

When Domingo sought permission to go back to her province last February, Napoles gave her blessing and even gave her cash and gifts to bring home to her (Domingo’s) relatives.

“Janet gave the maid her bonus. They stuffed her bag with other valuables as a farewell gift,” Baligod said.

However, before the maid reached the gate of Dasmariñas Village in Makati, where the Napoleses are reportedly renting a house on Mahogany Street, Napoles had tipped off the guard that Domingo had stolen from her employer and was trying to escape.

The subdivision guards stopped Domingo, searched her belongings, and naturally found the cash and gifts that Napoles had given her.

Domingo has been in jail since for qualified theft.

Baligod said Domingo had been used by Napoles as another dummy in her numerous transactions.

It was the same charge that Napoles would later file against Benhur Luy before the Pasig Regional Trial Court, when she accused him of stealing P300,000.

The Pasig RTC cannot enforce the warrant of arrest against Luy because he is under the justice department’s Witness Protection Program.

Motion reconsidered

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), under the Department of Justice (DOJ), has filed a serious illegal detention complaint against Napoles and her brother Reynaldo Lim for holding Luy.

The DOJ-Task Force Kidnapping, led by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva, dismissed the complaint, saying there was no probable cause to file a case.

The NBI filed a motion for reconsideration and “was able to strengthen the case and determined the motive for it,” Prosecutor General Claro Arellano told Rappler in a phone interview.

“After evaluating the evidence, we were convinced that there was probable cause to proceed with the filing of the serious illegal detention case. He (Luy) was held against his will under the guise of spiritual retreat,” Arellano said.

He dismissed the alibi of the Napoles camp that Luy was only undergoing “spiritual retreat” which isolated him from family and friends.

“There was motive in illegally detaining Luy. It was the pork barrel,” Arellano said. The prosecutor was referring to Luy’s revelations that Napoles masterminded the systematic siphoning and misuse of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund.

Arelllano said no bail was recommended by the DOJ for the serious illegal detention case “since it was more than 3 days that they held Luy against his will.”

Luy was rescued by NBI agents in one of Napoles’ units at the Pacific Plaza Tower.

In a separate interview by ABS-CBN News Channel, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the serious illegal detention case “emanated from the rescue of Benhur from the alleged illegal detention from the camp of Napoles.”

Ironically, Baligod told Rappler, the counter-affidavit issued by Napoles and her brother betrayed their alibi. It showed “there was clear admission from their part that they held Luy against his will.”

He cited, for instance, the printed text messages submitted by Reynaldo Lim showing that “he was restraining Luy’s freedom of movement.” In that exchange of text messages between Luy’s relatives  and Lim, “he was controlling how, when and where Luy’s family members can talk to him.”

Asked where Napoles should be detained, Baligod said “it could either be at the NBI or at the Makati City Jail,” at the court’s discretion.

Detaining her at the NBI will facilitiate the DOJ’s investigation into the pork barrel scam. “It might be too cumbersome if she has to be detained at the Makati City Jail. We will have to ask permission from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology every time she gets summoned,” Baligod said.

But then, the lawyer said, it might be also good for Napoles to stay for a few weeks behind bars. – Rappler.com