By Czarina Nicole Ong
The lawyers of pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and Ombudsman prosecutors argued today about her status in the Department of Justice (DOJ) Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Special Prosecutor and former Presiding Justice of the Sandiganbayan, Edilberto Sandoval, said during the First Division hearing Monday morning that “there’s no such thing as a provisional admission to the WPP.”
Napoles was placed under the WPP on February 27, so she filed an urgent motion before the court last Friday seeking transfer of custody from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) to the DOJ.
For Sandoval, either Napoles is really admitted to the WPP, or not at all. “How long can it be? 10 years?” he questioned.
But Napoles’ lawyer, Stephen David, argued that provisional admission is “discretionary” so “they are vetting affidavits and it will be final then .”
“There is frequent coordination with the DOJ and Napoles, so we want her to be near,” he added.
When asked if there was any coordination made between the Ombudsman and the DOJ regarding Napoles’ WPP status, David confirmed there was none. The lawyer explained that it was their agreement with the DOJ that they would be the one filing the motion for transfer.
Sandiganbayan First Division Chairperson Efren De La Cruz and Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg then directed David to ask the DOJ to attend Napoles’ hearing on Tuesday.
At the same time, the prosecution was given 10 days from today to submit its written comment regarding Napoles’ request for transfer.
After the hearing, David told reporters that Napoles should actually be transferred to the DOJ already, but they still sought the Sandiganbayan’s permission “as a matter of courtesy.”