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MANILA, Philippines – The woman at the center of the alleged pork barrel scam has partied and rubbed elbows with lawmakers, indicating she’s more than an acquaintance to them.
Photos obtained by Rappler show businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, owner of the JLN Group of Companies, and some of her family members attending a party apparently hosted by Sen Jinggoy Estrada.
In the photos, a smiling Napoles is seen table-hopping and posing for the cameras like it was her own party. One of the photos shows Sen Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr and actor Phillip Salvador – two of Estrada’s closest friends – posing with Napoles.
We learned that the party where the photos were taken was held at Estrada’s favorite hangout in San Juan City.
Estrada and Revilla were among the 28 lawmakers tagged by whistleblowers – former employees and associates of Napoles – as sources of the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel released to Napoles’ bogus non-governmental organizations through government agencies and corporations.
The witnesses said they solicited pork barrel from the lawmakers, in exchange for lawmakers getting commissions, and the NGOs served as conduits of the funds.
Reports of the Commission on Audit (COA) appear to back up the claims of the witnesses. COA has noted that many of the NGOs that received pork barrel have failed to submit their list of beneficiaries.
The National Bureau of Investigation is now investigating the whistle-blowers’ allegations. Malacañang has given assurances it will spare no one in the probe. COA records show some administration solons were also the sources of funds that were channeled to dubious organizations through a government-owned corporation.
Estrada has admitted knowing Napoles. “Yes, I know her. I will not deny that,” he told reporters on Monday, July 22. He said he knows Napoles “through a friend.”
Revilla, on the other hand, has not addressed the question of his relationship with Napoles. He, however, accused Malacañang of executing a demolition job against him since he is considered presidential timber in 2016.
Speaking for Napoles in a press conference, lawyer Bruce Rivera was quoted by abs-cbnnews.com as saying that his client is “not personally acquainted with any of them.”
Gmanews.tv, in another report, quoted Rivera as saying: “She is also nahihiya sa mga lawmakers kasi hindi niya sila kakilala and she’s a little afraid baka sigawan lang siya.” (She also gets shy whenever she’s with lawmakers because they don’t know her, and she’s afraid they might just shout at her.)
In the same press conference, Rivera acknowledged there may have been some occasions that Napoles, a party animal, had her photo taken with some lawmakers but only for the sake of photo opportunities.
For instance, “she had her picture taken with Senator Bong Revilla because he is popular and good looking, but that’s it,” Rivera said.
See for yourselves in the photos below: