Sandiganbayan: Napoles cannot move to a DOJ safehouse

MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s First Division has denied the motion of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles to be moved out of a regular jail and into a safehouse of the Department of Justice-Witness Protection Program (DOJ-WPP).

In a resolution promulgated April 5 and released to media on Tuesday, April 10, the First Division cited the provision in the WPP law that prevents the DOJ from taking custody of a detained witness.

Section 1, Article IX of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 6981 says: “The WPP shall not take into its protective custody a witness who us under detention for any lawful cause. However, it shall direct the custodian of the witness take necessary measures to ensure safety of the witness.”

“To place Napoles into the custody of the WPP despite being presently under detention for a lawful cause is contrary to the clear and express import of Article IX, Section 1 of the IRR of RA 6891,” said the resolution by Associate Justices Efren dela Cruz, Geraldine Faith Econg, and Edgardo Caldona.

Napoles is currently detained at the Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). After resigned justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II granted Napoles entry to the WPP, she filed motions to move out of jail before the 3 divisions of the Sandiganbayan handling her plunder charges.

The 3rd and 5th Divisions have to rule on the motions too, but under the rules, once one division denies, she’s effectively prevented from moving out of jail.

Incoming Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he will review Napoles’ WPP coverage. One thing for sure, Guevarra said he will restore the close coordination between the DOJ and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Under Conchita Carpio Morales, the Ombudsman prosecutors are tasked to oppose the motions of Napoles, whether to move out of jail, and to apply as a state witness immune from suit.

What will happen under a new Ombudsman come July is unclear. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.