WHISTLEBLOWERS BARE PORK SCAM RECORDS / DAY OF RECKONING FOR NAPOLES, 3 SENATORS
 

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 16, 2013 (ASIA NEWS WEEKLY) Nancy C. Carvajal - Two witnesses in the 10-billion peso (US$229 million) pork barrel scam will submit to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) five notebooks containing evidence of Janet Lim-Napoles’ dealings with lawmakers, the Inquirer has learned.

The notebooks, in different sizes and colours, contain records of cash transactions, lists of properties, bank accounts and other information said to be related to the operation of Napoles’ business company JLN Corp.

“These notebooks were records from 2012 up to August 2013 and all information contained in these notebooks, we personally wrote,” said one of the two new witnesses who came forward recently to testify against Napoles.

In an interview with the Inquirer in their safe house somewhere in Metro Manila, the witnesses said they worked for Napoles as presidents of bogus NGOs until she was ordered arrested by a Makati City court for the alleged illegal detention of Benhur Luy, the principal witness in the pork barrel scam.

Napoles, who surrendered to President Benigno Aquino III last week, is detained at a police camp in Laguna province on charges of serious illegal detention. The NBI plans to bring plunder charges against her, alleging that she siphoned off 10 billion pesos in legislators’ allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) into her bank accounts through bogus nongovernment organisations (NGOs).

A lawyer for the two new witnesses, Lourdes Benipayo, was present during the interview.

Code names

An entry in the first blue notebook showed that 20 million pesos from one of the whistle-blowers’ NGO was allotted for “Kuya.”

“‘Kuya’ and ‘Sexy’ are the code names for Sen. Jinggoy [Estrada]. ‘Pogi’ is for Sen. Bong [Ramon Revilla], and ‘Tanda’ is for Sen. [Juan Ponce] Enrile,” the NGO president said.

In an earlier interview, Luy told the Inquirer that it was Napoles who chose the code names for the senators.

Contacted by the Inquirer for comment, Estrada said he would issue a statement after the whistle-blowers had submitted the notebooks to the NBI.

“I will react when these (the notebooks) have been submitted to the NBI,” Estrada said.

Enrile and Revilla had yet to respond to the Inquirer’s request for comments as of press time last night.

All senators who have been implicated in the pork barrel scam have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The second notebook, with a red cover, contained lists of Napoles’ properties.

The third notebook (blue) contained records of documents received by the whistle-blowers on behalf of their boss, credit card numbers and details of credit-card transactions.

The fourth notebook (red) contains the names of contact persons and their phone numbers. The fifth notebook (blue-green) is an organiser of the whistle-blowers.

One of the two new witnesses said she delivered money to the house of Ruby Tuason, social secretary of former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.

US properties

In their testimony, the new witnesses claimed they were ordered by Napoles to convert millions of pesos to US dollars.

“We exchanged pesos to dollars [at various money changers] that offered the lowest exchange rate,” the witness said.

“The US dollars were then sent abroad through various money couriers to pay for purchases of properties in America,” they said.

Luy, in an earlier interview with the Inquirer, said Napoles’ daughter Jo-Christine had an account at Wells Fargo Bank in Irvine, California, and the account number was 920026595958

He said Napoles’ brother, Reynald Lim, had an account at Bank of America in San Diego, California, with the account number 1216143383.

Luy said Napoles’ nephew Jose Emmanuel Lim had an account at Wells Fargo Bank in Pasadena Lake, California (account number 8022280068).

Deeds of sale

The new witnesses submitted as annexes to their sworn statements deeds of sale for various local properties in the name of Napoles’ oldest son, James.

They also submitted as evidence documents signed by those members of the House of Representatives designating their NGOs as beneficiaries of the legislators’ pork barrel allocations.

“I was with her since 1997 up to the time she was ordered arrested, and also served as custodian of records of her properties,” said one of the new whistle-blowers.

In their affidavits, the new whistle-blowers said Napoles claimed to have “contacts” in the Office of the Ombudsman and in the Sandiganbayan, and that she expected to be cleared of the charges against her in four to five years.

Plea for loyalty

In an affidavit submitted to the NBI on Thursday, the 11th whistle-blower, said hours before surrendering to President Aquino on Wednesday night, Napoles called her up to plead for loyalty from her employees.

“She was crying and asking me not to turn my back on her, that we should stay together,” the witness said.

The witness said Napoles promised to support her employees even if it costs her all her money.

“Just wait. My TRO (temporary restraining order) will be issued soon,” Napoles said in Filipino, according to the 11th witness.

The witness said she was at the Department of Justice when Napoles called.

The witness said that when her phone rang again, showing the same number used by Napoles, it was Cheryl Jimenea, former appointments secretary of former President Estrada, who was on the line.

She said Jimenea instructed her to meet her in a restaurant in Trinoma, Quezon City, at 7:30pm on August 28.

The witness said she and some other NGO presidents went to see Jimenea, who came with a lawyer who instructed them to “implicate Benhur (Luy)” in the event the NBI questioned them.

“Madame did nothing wrong to you so maybe you have nothing against her. So say that it was Benhur who gave you instructions and it was to him that you turned over the money,” the witness quoted the lawyer as telling them in Filipino.

The witness said Jimenea gave her and the other NGO presidents 20,000 pesos each at the end of the meeting. The witness did not say how many whistle-blowers were present.

Documents destroyed

She said Napoles “ordered her papers and documents in the office to be moved to her residence in Pacific Plaza Tower, and the documents for all the NGOs were destroyed.”

Napoles also ordered the destruction of all original documents pertaining to the bogus NGOs, the witness said. She said Napoles ordered the papers destroyed so that the bogus NGOs could not be traced to her.

At least six shredders were used to destroy the documents, the witness said.

“Due to the sheer volume of documents that we shredded, the machines eventually broke down,” she said.

Napoles, she said, “feared that the National Bureau of Investigation might raid the office and Pacific Plaza.”

She said Napoles got adjoining rooms at Discovery centre and gave it the code name “parking.”

“In the new office, we temporarily held office and continued to shred more documents,” the witness said.

She said Napoles also ordered them to execute affidavits stating that Luy was the brains behind the dummy NGOs.

Her statements corroborated the testimony of the other whistle-blowers, all employees of Napoles who designated them presidents of the alleged bogus NGOs.

40 homes

The 11th whistle-blower also submitted to the NBI an affidavit detailing 40 residential properties that Napoles allegedly owned, including five apartments in Primea, one of the swankiest residential buildings on Ayala Avenue in Makati City. An apartment in Primea is worth at least 75 million pesos, the Inquirer was told.

Sworn statements submitted earlier by the whistle-blowers said Napoles owned 28 properties in such posh residential subdivisions as Ayala Alabang, Forbes Park and Dasmariñas, but the Bureau of Internal Revenue said last week it had failed to locate properties under the name of Napoles or her family or her NGOs.

The latest whistle-blower said Napoles closed her bank accounts and those of her NGOs in June, two months after Luy began to talk to NBI investigators about the extent of his employer’s alleged transactions involving five senators, 23 congressmen and government officials.

“She closed the accounts, but she also opened new ones. She was afraid that Benhur knew about her bank accounts,” said the 11th whistle-blower.

The witness could not give an estimate of how much was transferred, but said she had evidence that would show 320,154.48 pesos was remitted to Napoles from 11 NGO accounts in Metrobank’s Magdalena Street and Jose Abad Santos Avenue branches.

Arrest order

Three of the whistle-blowers claimed they were with Napoles at the time she received a phone call that an arrest warrant had been issued against her and her brother Reynald.

“She never expected the dismissal of the illegal detention case (brought by Luy) would be reversed. She was even happy and confident on that day,” said the 11th witness.

She said the employees were not told about the arrest warrant, but learned about it because Napoles’ eldest daughter, Jo-Christine, was crying. “There were nonstop phone calls coming in,” she said.

The three whistle-blowers said they were at South Gardens Unit at Pacific Plaza in Makati City having a meeting with Napoles when the news of her arrest broke out. They left Napoles and her daughter at 7pm.

The 11th whistle-blower said she started working for Napoles in 1997 as a “utility girl” for Jo-Chris Trading, with offices in Pasay City. In 1998, the trading company moved to the Philippine Navy Officers’ Wives Association building in Taguig City.

During that time, Napoles also owned a parlor, barber shop and a meat shop in the same building.

One of the new whistle-blowers claimed she also served as accountant for Napoles, and another said she served only as president of an NGO. With a report from Norman Bordadora

FROM THE INQUIRER

Napoles, 3 senators face day of reckoning By Nancy C. Carvajal, Christine O. Avendaño Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:27 am | Monday, September 16th, 2013

With 'Truckload’ of evidence backing pork complaint


NAPOLES AND THE 3 SENATORS DURING THE 'GOOD OLE DAYS'

The Office of the Ombudsman will receive on Monday a criminal complaint for plunder and a “truckload” of evidence from the National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind a P10-billion pork barrel scam, and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr.

In all, at least 60 people will be named in the charge sheet for plunder and malversation of public funds in connection with the biggest swindling case to hit the republic since the pork barrel system was introduced in the then US-ruled country in 1922, the Inquirer has learned.

“Yes,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Sunday in a text message to reporters when asked if the filing of the charges in the Ombudsman would proceed on Monday as she had announced last week. “I will know the details later.”

At press time, the details had not been disclosed by De Lima, but Inquirer sources last week said that Enrile, Estrada and Revilla would be included in the plunder case for allegedly giving Napoles’ bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) access to the senators’ allotments from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel.

Up to 50-percent kickbacks

The fund, meant to ease rural poverty and the plight of typhoon victims, allegedly ended in kickbacks of up to 50 percent for the senators, according to 10 whistle-blowers, all former Napoles employees. Documents from the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) also implicated the lawmakers.

Levito Baligod, counsel of the whistle-blowers, told the Inquirer that his clients were filing their own private complaint against Napoles, lawmakers, government “conduits” and NGO officers. Baligod did not elaborate.

Assistant NBI Director Medardo de Lemos will sign the complaint sheet and De Lima the transmittal letter of the information to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

“A truckload of documents will be submitted to the Ombudsman along with the affidavits of the witnesses, including the whistle-blowers,” Baligod said.

Among those who prepared the final complaint sheet was Assistant Justice Secretary Jose Justiniano, in collaboration with lawyers from the NBI and the whistle-blowers.

“There was a very intense deliberation among the members of the NBI-DOJ fact-finding committee to come up with the final complaint,” Baligod said.

Plunder threshold

Napoles, 49, is being held in Fort Sto. Domingo, a Philippine National Police antiterrorism training school in Sta. Rosa City in Laguna for alleged serious illegal detention of Benhur Luy, 32, a cousin and her former employee, after she allegedly learned that he was going to compete with her in securing pork barrel projects.

Luy was rescued by the NBI in March after being allegedly held captive by Napoles for three months. He later revealed the alleged channeling of pork barrel funds by Napoles to her NGOs.

The businesswoman disappeared after a warrant for her arrest was issued by the Makati Regional Trial Court on Aug. 14. She surrendered to President Aquino in Malacañang two weeks later, saying she feared for her life. Aquino then personally escorted her to PNP headquarters at Camp Crame.

COA special audit

Revilla topped the list of lawmakers who were said to have allowed the use of their PDAF to Napoles, according to Inquirer sources. The COA, in a special audit from 2007 to 2009 said that Napoles’ NGOs received from Revilla a total of P413.19 million in 22 instances during the period.

The threshold amount for plunder is P50 million.

Enrile allegedly allowed Napoles access to his PDAF on 21 occasions for a total of P332.7 million, according to the COA special audit, and Estrada 18 times for a total of P191.58 million worth of livelihood projects.

All the senators have denied wrongdoing. Revilla said the opposition was being singled out for “demolition” by the administration.

Just a ‘sample’

During a hearing called by the Senate blue ribbon committee last week, De Lima said she expected cases to be filed in “tranches” and that the cases to be lodged in the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday would simply be a “sample.”

Topping the list in the private complaint of 23 House representatives in the alleged Napoles scam is Rizalina Seachon-Lanete of Masbate’s third district, who allowed her pork to be used 13 times; followed by Conrado Estrella III of Pangasinan’s sixth district and Rodolfo Plaza of Agusan del Sur, both nine occasions; and Samuel Dangwa, of Benguet, eight.

Each senator has a PDAF allocation of P200 million annually, while congressmen each have P70 million. But during the Arroyo administration, favored senators and congressmen received more than they were supposed to get.

Under the law, the lawmakers have the sole discretion in the disposition of their pork barrel.

Records from 2004 to 2010

Baligod said that among the documents to support the whistle-blowers’ private complaint were daily records of financial transactions of JLN Corp. “These were records from 2004 until 2010, duly recorded by the whistle-blowers,” he said.

The pieces of evidence include joint statements of nine whistle-blowers and more than 2,000 pages of financial transactions. Originally posted: 9:43 pm | Sunday, September 15th, 201


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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