Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - —VINCE F. NONATO INQ

The Depart­ment of Jus­tice (DOJ) has hit the brakes on its sup­port for al­leged pork bar­rel scam master­mind Janet Lim-Napoles’ mo­tion to be trans­ferred to a safe house, say­ing she has no right to de­mand gov­ern­ment pro­tec­tion—for now.

This was the po­si­tion of Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Me­nardo Gue­varra and his re­signed pre­de­ces­sor Vi­tal­iano Aguirre II, who ap­par­ently with­held di­rect back­ing for Napoles a day be­fore Pres­i­dent Duterte let him go.

Napoles is cur­rently de­tained at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

In March, about a month af­ter the DOJ pro­vi­sion­ally ac­cepted Napoles into the wit­ness pro­tec­tion pro­gram (WPP), the Sandi­gan­bayan’s Third and Fifth Di­vi­sions in­structed the agency to jus­tify its sup­port for the busi­ness­woman.

The Fifth Divi­sion re­ceived a re­ply from the DOJ dated April 4 signed by Aguirre, whose res­ig­na­tion was ac­cepted the next day. Gue­varra sent his re­ply to the Third Divi­sion on April 13.

Pro­vi­sional cov­er­age

Both stated that be­cause Napoles was only “pro­vi­sion­ally ad­mit­ted” to the WPP on Feb. 27, she still could not en­joy all its priv­i­leges as her ap­pli­ca­tion for full cov­er­age was “still un­der eval­u­a­tion.”

The pro­vi­sional cov­er­age “does not con­fer upon her an ac­tion­able right to de­mand de­ten­tion or cus­tody un­der the afore­said pro­gram,” Aguirre and Gue­varra said in their re­spec­tive man­i­fes­ta­tions.

Both Aguirre and Gue­varra ad­mit­ted that Sec­tion 1, Ar­ti­cle IX of the 2012 im­ple­ment­ing rules and reg­u­la­tions of the Wit­ness Pro­tec­tion, Se­cu­rity and Ben­e­fit Act barred wit­nesses “un­der de­ten­tion for any law­ful cause” from be­ing taken into WPP cus­tody.

Fi­nal res­o­lu­tion

The rule has been cited by the Sandi­gan­bayan First and Fifth Di­vi­sions in their April 5 and April 16 res­o­lu­tions, re­spec­tively, deny­ing Napoles’ mo­tion for trans­fer.

Gue­varra in­di­cated the pos­si­bil­ity that Napoles’ de­ten­tion dur­ing her on­go­ing plun­der cases “shall be taken into ac­count by the Depart­ment in the fi­nal res­o­lu­tion” of her WPP ap­pli­ca­tion.

Aguirre’s man­i­fes­ta­tion merely said: “It ap­pears herein that ac­cused Napoles is un­der de­ten­tion pur­suant to a process is­sued by this Hon­or­able Court.”

Still, the DOJ’s cold re­cep­tion of Napoles’ March 15 mo­tion for the trans­fer of cus­tody marked a de­par­ture from the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pre­vi­ously en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port for her.

Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Napoles was ac­cused of run­ning a net­work of bo­gus non- gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions that si­phoned off the Pri­or­ity De­vel­op­ment As­sis­tance Fund al­lo­ca­tions from sev­eral leg­is­la­tors, who al­legedly re­ceived kick­backs in re­turn.

She is charged as a coac­cused in the plun­der cases against for­mer Se­na­tors Bong Revilla, Juan Ponce En­rile and Jing­goy Estrada in the First, Third and Fifth Di­vi­sions of the graft court.

Aguirre had dis­closed plans to use her to build up new cases, spark­ing fears that Napoles would be used as a tool to ha­rass crit­ics of the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Of­fice of the Om­buds­man has said that Napoles’ ad­mis­sion to the WPP will not af­fect pend­ing cases.

Me­nardo Gue­varra

Janet Lim-Napoles

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