Sandigan denies Napoles’ transfer to witness protection custody

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The Sandiganbayan has denied the plea of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles to be to be transferred from Camp Bagong Diwa to the custody of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Witness Protection Program (WPP).

In a resolution dated April 5, the anti-graft court’s First Division denied Napoles’ motion due to lack of merit, as she is “presently under detention for a lawful cause.”

Napoles had been placed by then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II under provisional protection as state witness in the multi-million Priority Development Assistance Fund  (PDAF)—also referred to as pork barrel—scam.

She, however, needed the approval from Sandiganbayan for her transfer of custody since the court handles her the plunder and graft cases against her.

Sandiganbayan stressed that Napoles’ protective custody under the witness protection program would be “contrary to the clear and express import” of Article XI, Section 1 of the 2012 implementing rules and regulations of the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act.

“The program shall not take into its protective custody a witness who is under detention for any lawful cause. However, it shall direct the custodian of the witness to take necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of the witness,” the ruling stated.

It further read: “Notably, the said provision does not admit of any exception. Verily, the denial of the instant motion is warranted under the premises.”

The resolution, which was released to media on Tuesday, April 10, was penned by Associate Justice Efren N. de la Cruz and concurred in by Associate Justices Geraldine Faith A. Econg and Edgardo M. Caldona.

It only affects the issue concerning her custody but not her provisional admission into the WPP.

In requesting for a transfer of custody, Napoles claimed that she is under threat, intimidation, and harassment, further pointing out that her detention cell at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City is known to the public.

Her camp also claimed that cell was ransacked in October last year.

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