Makati court sets first hearing on Napoles' detention case
Mike Frialde (The Philippine Star) - December 9, 2013 - 5:12pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 on Monday finished its pre-trial conference of the serious illegal detention case filed against businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles by her cousin Benhur Luy.

Presiding Judge Elmo Alameda scheduled the marking of exhibits on January 17 and set the case's first hearing at 9:30 a.m. on February 18. The court also set the next hearings on March 4, 18 and 25, also at 9:30 am.

Meanwhile, the prosecution panel asked Judge Alameda to be given 30 days from Monday to answer the motion for reconsideration filed last December 5 by Napoles' lawyer, Alfredo Villamor.

In his motion for reconsideration, Villamor asked that the court reconsider and set aside its Nov. 21, 2013 order denying Napoles' urgent motion for bail arguing that the prosecution's evidence against Napoles is not strong.

"The prosecution has not proven the alleged crime and conspiracy. In addition, the evidence so far presented inevitably show that Benhur was not detained. Thus, he did not want or need to be rescued at any time," Villamor argued in his motion for reconsideration.

"Contrary to the claim of detention, Benhur was in constant communication with his family because he was free to call and update the at any time. Finally, prosecution witnesses have been proven to be unreliable, their testimonies have been muddled by their own inconsistencies and afterthoughts," he added.

The prosecution panel headed by Prosecutor Christopher Garvida told the court that they will be again presenting the previous eight witnesses who had testified during Napoles' bail petition hearing. In addition, Garvida said the prosecution will also present a representative of the Metrobank Ortigas branch to testify how funds were transferred from Benhur Luy's account to Napoles' account.

In addition, Garvida said the prosecution panel will also be presenting four more witnesses, the identities of whom will only be revealed to the court five days before their testimonies.

More priests as witness

Villamor, meanwhile, said the defense panel will be presenting 18 witnesses, mostly priests from the retreat house in Magallanes Village in Makati where Benhur Luy was supposedly detained.

To be presented as witnesses for the defense are Patricio Asoy, William Lim, Msgr. Ramirez, Fr. Paul Yang, Fr. Peter Guo, Fr. Joseph Gao, Fr. John Ma, Fr. Paul Dong, Abelardo Gernale, Jethron Bande, Madylon Habana, Ana Marie Lim, Fernando Masayon, Feliciano Alcantara, Expedito Rosales, Peter John Castillo, Napoles herself and her brother and co-accused Reynald Lim.

In his 15-page decision denying Napoles' motion to post bail, Judge Alameda ruled that the evidence presented by the panel of prosecutors is strong to conclude that the offense of serious illegal detention has been committed by Napoles.

"In sum, the court rules that the evidence adduced by the prosecution is strong which leads this court to conclude that the offense of Serious Illegal Detention as charged has been committed by Janet Lim Napoles," said Judge Alameda in his decision.

"Wherefore, in view of all the foregoing, accused Janet Lim Napoles' Urgent Motion for Bail is denied for lack of merit," the decision added.

In his decision, Judge Alameda said the court agrees with the prosecution that the evidence presented so far is strong and sufficient to foreclose Napoles' plea to be granted bail.

"Verily, the quantum of evidence presented is strong which leads this court to conclude that the crime of serious illegal detention has been committed as charged and that accused Janet Lim Napoles will probably be punished if the law is administered," he said in his decision.

"The events, occasions, places, time, date, persons involved, the acts committed and the circumstances of Benhur's illegal detention as testified by him and the other prosecution witnesses undoubtedly show that the evidence against Jnet Lim Napoles is strong. The testimonies are clear and convincing and excludes all reasonable probability of any other conclusion," he added.

Alameda said the prosecution panel was able to prove that Benhur Luy was deprived of his liberty, that his detention is unlawful and that the detention lasted for more than three days which is one of the elements of the crime of serious illegal detention under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code.

In the last hearing on October 30 for Napoles' bail petition, her lawyer Alfredo Villamor presented his sole witness, Fr. Peter Edward Lavin.

Lavin was presented to prove the defense panel's argument that Luy was not illegally detained but had only spent a spiritual retreat at a house in Magallanes Village reportedly owned by Napoles.

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