[box type=”default” size=”large”] Judge’s issuance of arrest warrant questioned [/box]MANILA – Surrounded by seven members of the elite police Special Action Force (SAF), businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles appeared last Monday at the sala of Judge Elmo Alameda of Branch 150 of the Makati City Regional Trial Court for her scheduled arraignment.
Wearing a Kevlar helmet and bullet-proof vest under her white long sleeve blouse, Napoles, the alleged brains of a P10-billion pork barrel scam, opted not to enter her plea on serious illegal detention charges filed by her cousin Benhur Luy. This prompted the court to enter a not guilty plea for her.
Her close-in security had to shove away members of the media who were waiting for her as they entered the courtroom at 1:09 p.m. last Monday. Due to security reasons and the limited space in the court room, media coverage was not allowed in Branch 150, said Senior Supt. Manuel Lukban, Makati City police chief.
Lawyer Lorna Kapunan, defense lawyer of Napoles, said Alameda pushed for the arraignment because Napoles was already present. But Kapunan said she told the judge that Napoles cannot enter a plea because she has a pending petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals.
“We are questioning the Department of Justice’s reversal of its earlier dismissal of the case against Napoles. In the initial resolution, there was no serious illegal detention case,” Kapunan said after the closed-door arraignment.
The lady lawyer said they are questioning Alameda’s “hasty issuance of the warrant of arrest, without considering our motion for deferment of the issuance of arrest warrant.”
According to the Rule 116 of the Rules of Court, during an arraignment, charges against a person are read to him/her and he/she is given an opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty of the charges. The respondent may refuse to enter any plea, and the court automatically enters a not guilty plea in his behalf, said Kapunan.
Hours before her scheduled arraignment, Napoles made a last- minute appeal to transfer the venue from the Makati City court to Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna where she is being confined. The plea for transfer of venue was based on security reasons.
Kapunan said the court was not able to decide on the matter because the Supreme Court failed to hold office due to heavy rains. “The motion to move her and arraignment is already moot and academic according to the judge,” she said.
She said they are set to file with the Supreme Court a motion to change the venue of the succeeding hearings. “On the part of the accused, she has the right to waive her appearance in the next hearing,” she said.
A case of plunder was also filed against Napoles and 38 others, including three senators.
Meanwhile, the court will hear on Friday (Sept. 28) a pending motion for grant of bail filed by Napoles.
“Of the 32 respondents, only Mrs. Napoles is now in jail. I do not think it’s fair. Napoles is under detention for another case,” said Kapunan. (Manila Bulletin)