No bail for Napoles, court affirms

Posted at 02/12/14 4:51 PM

MANILA - The Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) affirmed its denial of the plea for bail by businesswoman and alleged "pork barrel" scam brains Janet Lim Napoles, which means that Napoles will remain detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna on the serious illegal detention charge filed by Benhur Luy.

In a 5-page order issued today, Feb. 12, Makati RTC Branch 150 Presiding Judge Elmo Alameda denied Napoles' motion for reconsideration (MR) on the court's Nov. 21, 2013 ruling denying her plea for bail.

In denying Napoles' MR, Alameda ruled that Napoles did not raise new arguments and the matters raised in her MR have already been weighed and passed upon by the court.

In her motion for reconsideration, Napoles raised the following grounds to substantiate her claim that Luy was not detained:

  1. Luy's reaction during his rescue;
  2. The admission that Luy was in constant communication with his family during the alleged detention period;
  3. The admission that Luy's letter to his family dated Feb. 21, 2013 did not state that he was detained or held against his will.

Alameda, however, reiterated his position on these issues as stated in his earlier ruling denying the plea for bail.

"Benhur was actually deprived of his liberty coupled with the intent on the part of accused Janet Lim Napoles conspiring with her brother Jojo Lim to effect it. Although, it appears that Benhur was allowed to move during his detention at Bahay ni San Jose in Magallanes, Makati City, like reading the Bible in the chapel which served as his room, jotting down notes, writing letters, talking to his family by cell phone with prior permission from Jojo Lim, confessing his ordeal and detention to Monsignor Ramirez, exposing the illegal transactions of his cousin Janet and exchanging greetings with Father Lavin, these circumstances do not in any way negate the presence of the element of actual deprivation of Benhur's liberty.

"Benhur was under constant threat on his life and that of his family especially his mother, Gertrudes, which Jojo Lim instilled in his mind coupled with the fact that he was under relentless and unending surveillance by the security personnel posted by the accused to prevent him from escaping."

Alameda also gave weight to Luy's claim that his letter to his family made no mention of his detention because he was just "testing the possibility of sending a letter to his family and if successful, he will write another letter to his family informing them this time of his actual detention."

Alameda also pointed out that Luy did not rush into the NBI team that rescued him because "he had the mistaken belief initially that the NBI operatives were friends of Napoles who were sent to harm him."

"At most, the arguments proffered by accused Napoles are self-serving and not supported by strong evidence of non-culpability and are therefore insufficient to alter the findings of the court.

"As can be gleaned from the assailed order, the court found the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses plausible, spontaneous, convincing and consistent with human nature and the ordinary course of things," Alameda said.

Alameda stressed that in denying Napoles' plea for bail, the court adopted the following principles: "the burden of proof is on the prosecution to show that the evidence meets the required quantum and the accused is given the right to cross-examine the witnesses and present her evidence in rebuttal, the quantum of evidence needed in order to deny the accused' right to bail is 'strong evidence' which leads the court to the conclusion that the offense has been committed as charged and that the accused will probably be punished if the law is administered, and the test therefore is not whether the evidence establishes guilt beyond reasonable doubt but rather whether it shows evident guilt or a great presumption of guilt."