MANILA, Philippines – Half a year since it got leads on the alleged systematic misuse of lawmakers’ pork barrel through fake NGOs, the justice department filed plunder charges on Monday, September 16, against senators with the biggest amount of illegally diverted funds.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) showed to journalists the documents filed with the Ombudsman Monday afternoon as evidence against senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
Watch a video of the filing of the complaints at the Ombudsman below.
An NBI source told Rappler they gathered the strongest evidence in the scam against these 3 opposition senators. The case against them is “airtight.”
Government investigators prioritized the filing of cases against these 3 who “completed cycle” of the scam – there is “documentary evidence [of their involvement] every step of the way,” the source told Rappler.
Janet Lim-Napoles, whose fake non-governmental organizations were used to launder misused funds, is included in this first batch of cases, an NBI source told Rappler.
The NBI, under the Department of Justice (DOJ), got hold of the case in early March, after lawyer Levi Baligod sought their help in an alleged kidnapping case.
The parents of Benhur Luy had gone to him to say their son was being held against his will by cousin and employer Janet Lim Napoles. The parents said it was possible Benhur was being detained because he already knew too much about Napoles’ operations.
On March 3, Baligod gave the NBI a rough list of senators and congressmen whose Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) had been coursed through implementing agencies to Napoles’ fake non-governmental organizations. In exchange, the lawmakers got hefty kickbacks, while Napoles pocketed the rest of the funds.
At the time, those named were 5 senators and 23 congressmen, having allegedly misused P10 billion.
As early as then, Baligod was already aware that the Commission on Audit was conducting a special audit of the PDAF.
Benhur was rescued by NBI agents from Napoles’ condominium unit at The Fort in Taguig City in late March. More whistleblowers – all former employees whom Napoles used as dummies in dubious NGOs – have come forward since.
COA eventually released in August by COA chief Grace Pulido-Tan, tagging 192 lawmakers misuing P6 billion in all, from 2007-2009.
President Benigno Aquino III formed an inter-agency task force to build cases against government officials and individuals involved in the pork barrel scam. It is headed by Ombudsman Conchitina Carpio-Morales, COA’s Tan, and DOJ’s De Lima.
The investigation has been expanded to include syndicates similar to Napoles’ that have been preying not just on lawmakers’ PDAF but other public, discretionary funds as well.
Napoles, facing the non-bailable charge of serious illegal detention, surrendered to President Aquino on August 28 and is now detained at a special police training facility in Fort Sto Domingo in Laguna. She has been described by Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II as “napakahalagang witness” (very important witness) in the pork barrel scam. – Natashya Gutierrez/Rappler.com