By Anjo Alimario
Judge Elmo Alameda of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 decided on Friday to reset the arraignment of Janet Lim-Napoles, from the Monday, Sept. 9, to Monday, Sept. 23, to give himself more time resolving pending motions filed by Napoles and her brother, Reynald Lim.
Alameda needs to resolve three motions: first, a motion to suspend proceedings filed by Lim; second, an urgent motion for bill of particulars filed by Napoles; and third, an urgent motion to defer arraignment and suspend proceedings also filed by Napoles.
In Friday's hearing, Lorna Kapunan, counsel for Napoles, appealed twice to Judge Alameda to consider humanitarian reasons in deferring the arraignment.
She argued that her client was not going anywhere, that there was no danger of escape nor flight on the part of Napoles.
"Nagpapasalamat kami because na-appreciate ni judge yung argument ng due process, because kung itutuloy yung arraignment eh wala ng due process [We are thankful that the judge appreciated the argument of due process, because the arraignment pushed through there would have been no due process]," Kapunan said. "It's really the interest of Justice that has been served here."
Napoles will be arraigned on a charge of serious illegal detention of Benhur Luy, a cousin of hers and a former business associate.
Kapunan said she wanted Napoles to be ready for a much bigger case – the plunder case now being prepared by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
She pointed out that the they have pending motions filed with the Court of Appeals seeking dismissal of the serious illegal detention case, arguing that it had no basis.
"It is what is confusing the public," she said. "Akala nila plunder na yon [They think it's the plunder case]."
She insisted on the principle of judicial courtesy in deciding on Napoles's motion.
In a recent resolution, the Court of Appeals deferred acting on an urgent application for a freeze order on the standing arrest warrants against Napoles and her brother.
Respondents in the case were given 10 days to comment on the petition.
Judge Alameda asked Lim's counsel, Raul Vasquez, what process would be stopped considering that his client was still in hiding.
Vasquez explained Lim still has a pending petition at the Court of Appeals and a motion for reconsideration before the DOJ for his right to due process.
Judge Alameda then corrected Vasquez that these were grounds for suspending Lim's arraignment but not the proceedings.
Asked if her client will appear on the new schedule for her arraignment, Kapunan said: "Hindi po namin alam [We don't know], because these are administrative details and that's to be left to the discretion of judge."
Judge Alameda says the court will rule on the three motions next week.
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Pia Hontiveros, Chief Correspondent and anchor of Solar Network News and News.Ph, presents the Solar News and Current Affairs year-ender special: On the Cusp of Change. A deafening silence, not out of a loss for words but a grief that cannot be spoken, for thousands lost to a super typhoon ... A muted pain from a powerful tremor that violently shook the heart of the nation ... An unspeakable anger over pork barrel that fueled a political maelstrom ... These and other stories from the extraordinary challenging year that was.