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Media barred from court as Napoles arrives at Makati RTC for arraignment

Janet Napoles, wearing a black helmet and bulletproof vest,and a white towel covering her arm, is barely seen as she is led by SAF escorts to Judge Elmo Alameda's room. (Bernard Testa/
The online news portal of TV5

(UPDATE 5 - 2:34 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines -- Janet-Lim Napoles arrived 1:10 p.m. at the Makati City Regional Trial Court-Branch 150 for her arraignment on serious illegal detention charges, with security so tight no mediamen were allowed to come near her but the parties in the case allowed inside the courtroom. 

The 49-year-old businesswoman is charged in Criminal Case No. 13-1992 People of the Philippines vs. Janet Lim Napoles and Reynald Lim for serious illegal detention. Prosecuting this case are Christopher Garvida, Henry Salazar and Edmund H. Sena for the Department of Justice. Lim's counsel is Raul Vazquez while representing Napoles is Lorna Kapunan.

Atty. Levito Baligod, complainant Benhur Luy's counsel, arrived at the Makati RTC with the latter's mother and sister. 

A team of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) of some 30 escorts brought Napoles straight into the sala of Judge Elmo Alameda, ramming through a phalanx of media crew that had been waiting for the woman dubbed "pork barrel queen" for her role in the P10-billion scam to divert Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF).

She wore a helmet, a bulletproof vest, and a towel wrapped around her hands and could hardly be seen through the ring of police escorts.

Camera men tried to push their way in, with some posted on ladders to take footage. The doors to the judge's sala were immediately closed.

There were around 15 policemen barring journalists from entering Alameda's office while Napoles was inside the courtroom. 

According to Makati Central Police Chief Senior Superintendent Manuel Lucban, Napoles went to the 15th floor as they thought it was where the judge held office. A source said Napoles got angry because the PNP SAF brought her to the wrong floor.

The accused kidnappers of pork scam whistleblower Benhur Luy did not enter plea but filed motion for bail. Makati RTC instead enters the not guilty plea for Napoles.

Baligod said Napoles is now arrainged and her request to have her arrignment in Laguna was denied. He said the court would next hold a pre-trial.

Since the Makati RTC refuses to transfer the hearing to Fort Sto. Domingo, Kapunan said they plan to waive her client's appearance for the next hearings. She also said they would file a motion before the Supreme Court to decide where the future hearing venue would be.

Earlier, Napoles was confirmed enroute in a heavily guarded police convoy to Makati City, for her 1:30 p.m. arraignment despite filing of an urgent petition Monday morning to move arraignment to her detention place, Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

"This is to confirm that we are on our way to the Makati court," lawyer Lorna Kapunan told radio reporters past noon, adding that they left Fort Sto. Domingo about 12:45 p.m. to make it to Makati, considering possible traffic and flooding from steady rains spawned by the southwest monsoon.

Kapunan said they had to travel to Makati in order to make the 1:30 p.m. arraignment schedule, even while awaiting the court's action on their urgent motion, filed Monday morning, to have her arraigned in Fort Sto. Domingo to reduce the risks to her life. 

While she has been tagged as the brains of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, the charge for which she is being arraigned in the sala of Judge Elmo Alameda is for serious illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy.

Luy alleged Napoles detained him for three months starting December 2012 because she suspected him of setting up a parallel operation to rival her alleged racket of creating bogus nongovernment organizations in which to funnel Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations of legislators, to whom--Luy told Senate probers--Napoles gave kickbacks.