MANILA, Philippines – Principal whistleblower Benhur Luy told the Senate that some lawmakers authorized Janet Lim-Napoles to fake their signatures in documents that would facilitate the release of their pork barrel to her fake NGOs.
While he said in the earlier part of the Senate hearing on Thursday, September 12, that Napoles’ staff drafted the endorsement letters and other documents and submitted them to lawmakers’ staff to be printed on official letterheads, Luy said forging documents and signatures were sometimes necessary.
This was to facilitate the release of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and, consequently, the lawmakers’ commissions.
“With the approval of Ms Napoles – kasi sila ang nag-uusap – may pagkakataong pino-forge.” (With the approval of Ms Napoles – because she and the lawmakers are the ones talking – there are times we forged the signatures.)
“Did the lawmakers authorize this?” asked Sen Francis Escudero.
Luy replied, “Opo” (Yes).
Earlier Escudero asked Luy about newspaper reports that he has a skill for forging signatures.
Luy said: “Okay lang. Depende po kasi ‘yung iba may stroke na mahirap gayahin.” (So-so. It depends because sometimes there are strokes that are hard to copy.)
Luy made the admission following statements from senators tagged in the scam that their signatures were forged. Among those accused of siphoning off their PDAF to fake Napoles NGOs are Senators Bong Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada. Estrada has said his signatures may have been faked.
Congressmen peddling PDAF
Escudero also asked Luy about Napoles’ media statements that she has a legitimate coal business that funds the lavish lifestyle of her family.
“Wala pong ganoon,” Luy said. (There’s nothing like that.)
Luy said the only business of Napoles was being a government “contractor.” He said she has 20 non-governmental organizations, 8 of which dealt with the PDAF, while the rest had projects with agencies like the Department of Agrarian Reform.
He also said 3 of Napoles’ NGOs got “burned” after they were linked to the fertilizer fund scam under the Arroyo administration. He said it was only after Napoles made money out of the racket when she and her children started other businesses.
Luy said lawmakers would go to Napoles’ office in Discovery Suites in Ortigas Center, Pasig, to peddle their PDAF for rebates.
“Inaalok ang kanilang PDAF. Refer, refer,” he said. (They would offer their PDAF. They found out about it through referrals.)
This prompted Escudero to say, “So it’s word of mouth.”
‘Javellana was Nabcor contact’
Upon questioning, Luy also said that former National Agribusiness Corp (Nabcor) president Alan Javellana was Napoles’ contact in the agency.
The Nabcor is a government corporation under the Department of Agriculture. It was named as one of the implementing agencies which cornered the most PDAF funds that were channeled to fake NGOs.
Javellana skipped the Senate hearing Thursday even if the senators asked him to return following his testimony last week. In last week’s hearing, Javellana admitted meeting Luy and Napoles but said he could not recall the names of the legislators who endorsed the Napoles-linked NGOs.
Blue ribbon committee chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III said at the start of the hearing that Javellana’s mobile number could not be reached.
Guingona ordered his committee to issue a show-cause order to Javellana to explain his absence. “Otherwise, we will cite him in contempt.”
De Lima: Party affiliation not factor
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima also faced questions on the cases her agency will file on Monday, September 16, in relation to the scam.
Escudero pointed out comments from observers that only opposition lawmakers have been named in the controversy. The Commission on Audit report though shows that some administration lawmakers also endorsed their PDAF to bogus or questionable NGOs.
De Lima said she makes it a point not to know the lawmakers’ parties even if she asked a researcher to look them up.
“Party affiliation is not a consideration. That is never a consideration. It is documentary support [that we look at]. I don’t want want to know what is the party affiliation of the congressmen,” she said.
De Lima said the case to be filed on Monday is the first batch of charges.
“With the volume of documents, many of which we have not yet obtained, we will not include the others in the first batch. We’re under extreme pressure to file cases as soon as possible. So we will make a sample first, but even if it’s a sample, we are proceeding with caution.”
De Lima said her agency is considering whether or not to look at the kickbacks lawmakers got or the actual amount of PDAF involved in the P50-million threshold for plunder.
Plunder is among the heavier charges the government will file against the accused. It is a non-bailable offense. – Rappler.com