WHISTLEBLOWER UNDER GOVT PROTECTION / CHARGE OR CLEAR 'PORK' SCAM SOLONS ASAP; PRESERVE HOUSE INTEGRITY
MANILA, July 22, 2013 (PHILSTAR) Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Thursday that the whistleblower in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam has agreed to be placed under the government's Witness Protection Program. (WPP).
De Lima said that Benhur Luy former assistant of Janet Lim-Napoles of the JLN Group of Companies and his family has agreed to be placed under the WPP.
Luy named five seantors and 23 members of the House of Representatives in the alleged scam.
President Benigno Aquino III had ordered an investigation into the alleged pork barrel scam.
Related: Noy wants exhaustive probe on pork scam
De Lima said that she has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation's Anti-Fraud Division to start looking for evidence in connection with Luy's allegations.
Luy alleged that his former boss, Napoles, is the brains behind the racket allegedly involving billions of pesos from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of the senators and congressmen.
The businesswoman allegedly diverted pork barrel funds of several lawmakers into dummy non-government organizations (NGOs), purportedly for ghost projects worth over P10 billion.
NAPOLES DEFENSE Bruce Rivera, lawyer of Janet Lim-Napoles, shows nude photos of whistle-blower Benhur Kilap-Kilap Luy during a press conference in Manila on Wednesday. Napoles’ lawyer says this is a simple case of extortion. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA
Napoles had denied that allegation and discredited Luy, whom she said was a drug dependent.
She said that she had written a letter to President Aquino asking help on the supposed P300-million extortion of Luy.
In the two-page letter of Napoles, she related the demand of Luy – through his lawyer Levito Baligod – to pay the amount, apart from several other demands, in exchange for dropping the illegal detention case against the businesswoman.
“On March 27 (2013), I met Atty. Baligod and this time he demanded a higher amount (P250 million to P300 million), excluding their other demands such as issuance of Canadian visas for all of the Luy family members, including himself (Benhur),” she said.
Napoles had said in the letter that the "charges against us are all false, fabricated and a mere product of lies, perpetrated by our business competitors, with the ulterior purpose of besmirching our reputation and destroying our name."
Napoles: Whistleblower in pork barrel scam habitual drug user By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated July 17, 2013 - 2:12pm 2 86 googleplus0 0
[NAPOLES: COURTESY OF GMANEWS TV]
MANILA, Philippines - Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam, denied once more involvement in the controversy, calling the accusations against her as "blackmail and lies."
In a statement read by her lawyer Bruce Rivera, Napoles denied involvement in the alleged diversion of pork barrel funds of several lawmakers into dummy non-government organizations (NGOs) purportedly for ghost projects.
“I have nothing to do with the so-called misuse of senators’ and congressmen's PDAF using bogus NGOs as alleged in the series of Inquirer reports,” Napoles said in her statement read by Rivera in a televised press briefing on Wednesday.
Napoles also tried to discredited Benhur Luy, her former personal assistant in her trading company JLN Corporation, who has emerged as a whistle-blower in the alleged scandal.
"I was supposed to charge him in court for qualified theft but my brothers tried to intervene and Benhur himself wrote a letter of apology and volunteered to undergo a spiritual retreat to reform himself who by his own admission is a habitual user of the illegal drug ecstasy. He has his own gender confusion and sexual indiscretions,” she said.
During the press briefing, Rivera showed pictures of Luy allegedly high on drugs.
The embattled businesswoman claimed that while Luy was on retreat, Luy’s family talked to lawyer Levito Baligod to "hatch a plan to extort money from me."
"It is clear that the extortion and blackmail is behind the series of articles which have appeared in the Inquirer and was no doubt fed by several unidentified NBI agents who were wittingly being used by Atty. Baligod and the Luy family for their own selfish motives,” she said.
Related story: Napoles claims P300-M extort try
Five senators have been tagged in the scandal for allegedly using their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to fund the ghost projects solicited by the bogus NGOs through forgery, falsification and bribery.
These five lawmakers were identified in reports as Senators Ramon Revilla, Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and Gregorio Honasan.
The senators have denied the allegations and urged for an investigation on the scandal.
FROM THE INQUIRER
‘Charge or clear solons in pork scam’ By Norman Bordadora Philippine Daily Inquirer
Lawmakers implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam should either be charged or cleared as soon as possible to preserve the integrity of Congress, which, apart from passing legislation, also functions as a check on the power of the executive branch, Sen. Alan Peter Ceyatano told reporters on Friday.
Congress’ credibility and integrity in conducting inquiries into corruption in government will be severely affected if the issues against the senators and House members implicated in the scandal are not resolved soon, said Cayetano, who is slated to become the next Senate majority leader.
“It’s so important for Congress to have credibility and integrity. Our companions in the Senate and in the House have to understand that,” he said.
An issue of trust
Cayetano said the issue is not about whether the constituencies of the lawmakers concerned needed the allocations given to them under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or whether the amounts involved were huge or not.
“It’s about, do people trust [the institution] or not… How will you investigate if they think some senators dipped their fingers into the fertilizer scam? So I think it’s very important that in the next few months, those involved should either be held accountable or charged or cleared so the trust can be maintained,” he said.
Though he was coy about confirming the fact, Cayetano is expected to be elected by the new Senate majority as the chamber’s majority leader on Monday.
But he confirmed having met on Thursday on the subject of the Senate’s reorganization with Senators Franklin Drilon and Ralph Recto, the presumptive Senate President and Senate President Pro Tempore, respectively.
Cayetano made the remarks a day after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima announced that the National Bureau of Investigation was building a case against Janet Lim-Napoles, the businesswoman who is alleged to have facilitated the release of billions of pesos in pork barrel funds allocated to certain senators and congressmen to fake nongovernment organizations and similarly spurious projects.
Proposed Senate inquiry
Administration ally Sen. Francis Escudero has filed a bill seeking a Senate inquiry into the PDAF scam, which was first revealed in a series of articles in the Inquirer.
Five senators—Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr., Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Gregorio Honasan—were mentioned in affidavits submitted to the NBI by six whistle-blowers as some of the lawmakers whose PDAFs were used to bankroll questionable organizations over the course of a decade.
The senators involved have denied any involvement in the scam and have expressed willingness to have their PDAF entitlements examined in an investigation.
“I think we should support the NBI and make sure that they have everything they need. I also urge my fellow senators and their staff to open their books,” Cayetano said.
“It will be difficult if the Senate will investigate. The first question will be, will anybody believe it? Second, if there are feelings that things are getting personal, many bills will not pass,” he added.
What can be done
Malacañang announced the other day that it was submitting to Congress a list of policy recommendations on how lawmakers’ entitlements under the pork barrel system should be disbursed.
The measures reportedly include limiting the projects that can be funded by PDAF allocations, the accreditation of involved organizations by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and limiting the number of implementing agencies.
Cayetano believed limiting the amount of discretion given to lawmakers in the disbursement of the pork barrel would address many of the issues confronting the PDAF.
He said having the proposed pork barrel-funded projects identified formally and listed in the budget would automatically address the problem.
He pointed out that although in the current system, pork barrel projects are categorized in certain departments, much discretion is allowed the people in charge of them to decide where the funds should go.
If legislators can throughout the year decide which agencies the funds would go to, there will be doubts about how the PDAF is disbursed, Cayetano said.
“[But] if that’s already in the budget, you can’t say I will transfer those funds. I think many of the issues of the pork barrel—not all but many—will be addressed [by listing the pork barrel items in the budget],” he said.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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