Lawmakers got 50% of own aid-A A +A
Friday, September 13, 2013
MANILA -- One of the whistleblowers in the alleged pork barrel scam told a Senate inquiry yesterday that unscrupulous lawmakers pocketed half of the money intended for pork barrel-funded projects coursed through detained businesswoman Janet Napoles.
Benhur Luy, Napoles’s former personal assistant and second cousin, alleged that they delivered 50 percent of the lawmaker’s share to his or her house before and after the issuance of the special allotment release order (Saro) and the notice of cash allotment (NCA) by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
He said the lawmakers would meet Napoles in her office to discuss details of the deal, where ghost projects would be undertaken by her non-government organizations (NGOs) allegedly in exchange for kickbacks.
Once they agreed what project the funds would go to, the legislator would write to DBM and would attach documents on the identified implementing agency, project description and the amount agreed on, Luy said.
He told senators that employees of the Napoles-run JLN Corp. prepared everything, including the crafting of the project proposal, which the lawmaker would forward to DBM.
The lawmaker would also endorse the project to the implementing agency. There were times a lawmaker’s signature was forged in documents with his or her permission, Luy said.
He also said that Napoles usually drew from her own pocket once the legislator asked for his or her cut. She would only release the other half of the cut once the lawmaker gave JLN a copy of the Saro, he said.
Napoles would then get 40 percent of the legislator’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allotted for a certain project, he told the Senate.
Luy recalled that at one point, Napoles had so much money that the vault could no longer accommodate it. They had to put the money on her bed or bathtub, he said.
Contacts in implementing agencies linked to the scam also got a 10-percent windfall, said Luy.
These were the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor), Zamboanga del Norte College Rubber Estates Corp. (ZREC), Technology Resources Center (TRC) and the National Livelihood Development Corp.
Some P10 billion in PDAF was allegedly lost to this racket but Luy said he doesn’t know any NGO with a similar scheme.
“She’s the mastermind because she was my boss,” said Luy, a medical technologist.
Luy said Napoles has 20 NGOs, eight of which were used to corner pork barrel funds.
The 12 other NGOs allegedly existed to siphon Malampaya funds.
Luy began working for Napoles in 2002. He said he was surprised that his cousin’s family became rich because he remembered selling ballpens with Napoles’ children.
He had thought she got so rich because she was a government contractor and was earning a lot from it, he said.
Senators failed to persuade Luy to name the lawmakers involved as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima feared the inquiry may be reduced to a “political witchhunt.”
Luy, however, admitted going to the office of a senator with the codename “Sexy.”
Pressed by Sen. Francis Escudero to give clues, Luy said: “Noong una mataba po siya tapos bigla po pumayat kaya sexy na (The senator used to be on the heavy side but lost weight all of a sudden and became sexy).”
Escudero said he is thin, adding his seatmate Sen. Franklin Drilon said he has always been fat. Escudero’s joke elicited laughter inside the session hall.
Earlier reports identified Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. as among those who will face plunder cases for benefitting from pork barrel funds coursed through bogus NGOs.
Napoles is detained at the Fort Sto. Domingo in Laguna and is facing charges of serious illegal detention Luy has filed against her.
She has been under government custody since she surrendered to President Aquino in Malacañang last Aug. 28.
In an ANC interview last night, Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras recalled that Napoles appeared scared the night she surrendered.
“She was scared… It was clear she wanted safety… and she trusted that the best person to surrender to was the President,” he told ANC.
Almendras, a Cebuano, also recalled that Napoles called out to him when she arrived in Malacañang and said: “Secretary, Bisaya ko!”
In Cebu, Gov. Hilario Davide III called for a review of the terms of the distribution of the PDAF after legislators were barred from using their pork barrel due to a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court.
“For me, because of what happened, because of the scam, there is a need to revisit the Pdaf and how it is distributed,” Davide told reporters yesterday.
Earlier, Davide said the TRO issued might affect the medical aid for the constituents of the congressmen, especially the indigents seeking treatment at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC).
Davide reiterated there should be strict guidelines on how to use the PDAF so it will not end up with bogus NGOs.
The governor said the Commission on Audit should also be involved in the distribution of the legislators’ pork barrel.
Based on the Department of Budget and Management website, at least P38 million was released this year for indigent patients of hospitals in Cebu.
Rep. Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu, 4th district) said about 10,000 beneficiaries have availed themselves of medical assistance from his PDAF at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) last year.
He said each patient was given up to P20,000 in financial help.
At the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, a person who asks for medical help receives P1,000 or P1,500, depending on his needs.
As the Senate continues its inquiry on the PDAF scam, protest activities against the alleged misuse of the pork barrel funds will also continue in Cebu.
After two protest rallies held last week and Wednesday, the Abolish Pork Barrel System Movement has set a prayer for good governance at the Basilica del Sto. Niño at 3 p.m. today.
Later in the afternoon, there will also be a protest march to Fuente Osmeña, where testimonies would be delivered. A candle lighting ceremony and noise barrage will follow.
The activities are being organized by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines West Visayas Jurisdiction, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Justice and Peace Commission of the Order of St. Augustine, and the People’s Movement for Change.
An anti-pork barrel rally was held last Aug. 26, which was attended by about 3,000 people who called for the scrapping of the PDAF.
A second rally was held Wednesday evening, which was attended by 40 to 50 people. A signature campaign was launched seeking the replacement of the PDAF and revising the Internal Revenue Allotment of local government units. (Virgil Lopez of Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 13, 2013.