Regular citizens were urged to arrest fugitive siblings Janet Lim-Napoles and Reynald Lim, both accused of illegally detaining a whistleblower in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, as the government appealed for the public's help in tracking down the fugitives.
"Actually, puwede ang citizen's arrest sa mga ganyan because this is imbued with deep public interest," Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told reporters after emerging from a meeting with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which is conducting the manhunt for the two.
Malacañang has appealed to the public to help authorities track down Napoles.
"We encourage the public to inform us kung meron silang information tungkol sa whereabouts ni Ms. Napoles," said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda at a press briefing in Malacañang.
Napoles and Lim had been accused of illegally detaining Benhur Luy, lead employee of Napoles' JLN Corp. The firm has been linked to anomalies involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, of several lawmakers.
The company of Napoles was alleged to have been tapped in ghost projects of the government, pegged in one report as totalling P10 billion, that were supposedly used by lawmakers for kickbacks.
NBI contact numbers
A citizen's arrest, or a warrantless arrest, is provided under Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court and is lawful under three circumstances:
(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense;
(b) When an offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and
(c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another.
De Lima said people who obtain information regarding the siblings's whereabouts may call the NBI Operations Center at landline number 524-1141 and mobile phone numbers 0917-5838612 and 0929-295-8888.
De Lima also handed to media copies of a list of some 30 vehicles that she said Napoles and Lim could use to move around. The list came with the description of the vehicles, including their color as well as their plate numbers.
"Mukhang mobile sila at pabalik-balik sa NCR [National Capital Region]," she said.
De Lima also showed photographs of both Napoles and Lim, which would be posted in public places, along with the list of the vehicles.
A Makati court on Wednesday ordered the arrest of Napoles and Lim, but the NBI, which was supposed to serve the arrest warrants, failed to locate them.
Twelve teams have been formed to conduct a manhunt, even as regional and field offices of the NBI have been alerted.
"May mga reported sighthings ng mga sasakyan, apparently mga sasakyan nila pero hindi na-validate. So they continue to search. There's actually no letup. That's the instruction to them. It's a massive search," De Lima said.
"Nanawagan kami sa publiko, tulungan ninyo po kami maghanap kay Mrs. Napoles. High profile fugitive po sya. Alam naman nyo po kung gaano ang kaso na hinaharap nya," she said.
De Lima also warned individuals who would protect the two, saying they could be charged with obstruction of justice. — KBK/ELR, GMA News