MANILA (Mabuhay) — Lawyer Lorna Kapunan on Wednesday withdrew as lead defense counsel in the serious illegal detention case filed against businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, citing “differences in opinion.”
Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima confirmed Kapunan’s withdrawal but said she did not know why.
“It’s a matter between her (Kapunan) and her client,” De Lima said.
Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 clerk of court Diosfa Valencia said Kapunan had not yet submitted her motion to withdraw as defense counsel of Napoles and her co-accused and brother Reynald Lim in their serious illegal detention case.
“Depende na sa kanya kung maghire s’ya ng replacement or contented na s’ya with Attorney Villamor [It depends on her if she decides to hire a replacement or she’s already contented with Attorney Villamor],” Valencia said referring to Napoles. Villamor is the collaborating counsel of Kapunan and has been a long time counsel of the Napoleses.
Before the confirmation, speculation was already rife that Kapunan had left the case after her sudden departure with her team of around five lawyers after showing up briefly at Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 around 9 a.m. Wednesday, before the scheduled hearing of Napoles’ bail petition on the charges filed against her by Benhur Luy, the former employee turned government star witness in the P10-billion pork barrel scam the businesswoman allegedly engineered.
Kapunan left after reportedly handing a note to Judge Elmo Alameda.
But Valencia said the note “is not considered part of the records.”
Her departure left defense corroborating counsel Alfredo L. Villamor who conducted the cross examination on Luy, who accused Napoles and her brother Reynald Lim of locking him up from December 19, 2012 to March 22, 2013, first in a room at the Discovery Suites in Ortigas Center and, later, at the so-called “Bahay San Jose” at No. 53, Lapu-Lapu St., Magallanes Village.
The cross examination was suspended for about five minutes as Villamor and prosecutors met briefly inside Alameda’s chambers.
Kapunan and her team did not enter the courtroom when the cross examination resumed.
This was the first time Kapunan and her team have not participated in the hearings, which began earlier this month.
Villamor and the prosecutors, led by Henry Salazar, would not say why Kapunan and her team did not participate in the hearing. Asked what they discussed inside the judge’s chambers, they said it was “confidential.”
Kapunan is also handling the defense of Napoles against plunder and graft charges filed against her in connection with the pork barrel scam as well as the Malampaya Fund scam. (MNS)