Benhur Luy and ‘PDAFtreneurship’-A A +A
Friday, September 13, 2013
SO THAT was what Benhur Luy looked like? The long-haired, bullet-proof vest-wearing whistle-blower finally surfaced in full view of the nation last Thursday, allowing himself to be grilled by members of the Senate blue ribbon committee about the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam involving lawmakers and his cousin, Janet Lim-Napoles.
“Benhur Luy is the happiest whistle-blower I’ve seen. Frequently giggling,” twitted Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara that day. Angara, though, is not an expert on whistle-blowers’ demeanor. He is a neophyte senator and, even as congressmen, saw only few whistle-blowers attending congressional hearings. But Luy did seem to bask in the attention he is getting.
Probably because he was already subjected to intense interrogation by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents and already repeated his story a number of times after a few months in government custody, Luy exhibited none of the jitters that other whistle-blowers experience.
And his confidence seems to be derived from the fact that he is telling us the truth about the biggest expose regarding an open secret Congress has long kept: the lawmakers’ misuse of their pork barrel.
What awed me throughout the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing last Thursday was whistle-blower Benhur Luy’s story about a well-oiled machinery in place for years that funneled billions of pesos in people’s money to the pockets of Napoles and corrupt lawmakers.
The story was told matter-of-factly by somebody who obviously also did his job matter-of-factly as a cog in the said machinery.
In a way, Janet Lim-Napoles, Luy’s boss, had perfected a PDAF-funneling business that Sen. Ralph Recto termed PDAFtreneurship (a play on PDAF and the word “entrepreneurship”)—until she messed with Luy.
I could close my eyes and imagine how that machinery whirred: Napoles wheeling and dealing with lawmakers and government bureaucrats (the roles reversed later, with lawmakers wheeling and dealing with Napoles); Luy and other members of Napoles’s staff preparing bogus papers for bogus non-government organizations and ghost beneficiaries
and forging signatures; people’s money exchanging hands, etc.
The scam machinery had become so “institutionalized” it had developed a sizeable clientele of corrupt lawmakers offering their pork and even what Luy termed as “agents,” former lawmakers who brought in clients-cum-lawmakers obviously for a share of the loot as commission.
Benhur Luy said he worked with Janet Lim-Napoles for ten years, from 2002 to 2012. He was therefore in a position to describe the rise of the Napoles PDAF scam “business empire.” They hit pay dirt from 2006 to 2010, a period that coincided with the Garci tape-rocked stage of the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, when impunity reigned. “Business” then slowed down somewhat under President Noynoy Aquino.
But here’s the thing. There are supposedly 82 NGOs where lawmakers PDAF was funneled through the years and Napoles’s groups only form a minuscule part of these. It is possible, then, that PDAF-scam business or businesses similar to that of Napoles were
in operation in those times. Will we ever be able to uncover them in the future?
But let us not fall into the trap of accusing the Aquino administration of being selective in its probe on the PDAF scam. Allow the government to deal with Napoles first and wring the case dry of information. There’s also the tough job of prosecuting those involved, including the big fishes (translation: lawmakers).
After that, hope that other whistle-blowers will come out to expose other still-hidden PDAF scandals. The Napoles case should only be the starting point of a thoroughgoing effort to dismantle PDAFtreneursip.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 14, 2013.