IN an effort to keep pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles away from possible threat against her life and also avoid additional expenses to be used in the transfer of the accused to and from the Makati City Regional trial Court, Senate President Franklin Drilon suggested that the hearing be done inside the premises of Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa Laguna where she is detained.
Drilon, during the budget hearing on the proposed 2014 budget of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) made the suggestion following concerns raised about the security and monetary issues that may arise from the current set up.
Napoles, who was ordered by a Makati City Regional Trial Court arrested in connection with the serious illegal detention case, surrendered last week to President Benigno Aquino 3rd, is currently detained at Fort Sto. Domingo, Sta. Rosa Laguna instead of Makati City Jail due to security reasons.
Drilon said the DILG can ask the Supreme Court (SC) to bring the court to the camp and hold the hearing there rather than bringing Napoles to Makati City.
He made it clear that the hearing will just be done in the camp but the jurisdiction will still be with Makati.
This is similar to what is being done at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) where hearing is done inside the prison facility for the convicted prisoners who are facing other charges.
“If we’re concerned about security and the expenses, that is to me a better arrangement than transporting Napoles back and forth to Makati,” the Senate president said.
Secretary Manuel Roxas, of the DILG told the senators that they are also considering the suggestion, however, he maintained that it is the court that will decide on the matter and what the DILG can do is to give its assessment in case the court asks.
Roxas said that the Philippine National Police (PNP) is just complying with the order of the court which is to transfer Napoles and whatever actions that will be carried out will have to come from the court.
The DILG secretary admitted that concerns about security, traffic disruption and expenses can only be determined once Napoles is taken to Makati to attend her arraignment, and until then it is difficult to give any estimate.
Meanwhile, Roxas admitted that there was indeed a different kind of treatment given Napoles but it is not because that she a VIP (very important person) but because the government wants her alive to face the judicial process of the country.
He added that it would be better for Napoles to stay safe because apart from facing the charges she can also provide crucial information about the scam and she can only do this if she is alive.
Roxas, however, assured that Napoles is secured inside Fort Sto. Domingo and they will als make sure that no harm will happen to her whether self-inflicted, accidental or externally inflicted inside her detention cell.
Apart from the security forces guarding the camp, there are also trainees of the PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) who can provide extra security.
Get Napoles testimony now
Senator Miriam Santiago, on the other hand suggested that Napoles be allowed to make a written testimony in order to reduce the level of threats to her security.
Santiago said Napoles can avail of a procedure called “perpetuation of testimony” provided under the Rules of Court to assure that the evidence will be preserved when trial begins, even if something happens to the witness.
“Any adverse event could prevent Napoles from fully identifying the senators and congressmen with whom she had PDAF transactions,” she noted.
According to Santiago the suspects could hire operatives to silence her, or she might inflict physical damage on herself and for any of these reasons, the Rules of Court allows her to give her testimony well before trial.
“If Napoles decides to perpetuate her testimony in order to reduce the level of threats to her security, she has to file a verified petition in court… The court should grant the petition for deposition if the perpetuation of the testimony may prevent a failure or delay of justice,” she added. Jefferson Antiporda