Napoles to Benhur: You stole my PDAF

Bea Cupin

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An emotional Benhur Luy testifies during the hearing for Napoles' motion for bail

PRINCIPAL WITNESS. Whistleblower Benhur Luy appears at a Makati court on October 25. Photo by Jose Del

MANILA, Philippines – What Madame wants, she usually gets.

So on Dec 19, 2012, when alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles wanted her personal assistant Benhur Luy detained, her employees, brother Reynald Lim included, made sure it happened.

Napoles was furious at Luy because she believed he betrayed her – that is, she suspected that he was dabbling in her business of siphoning off funds from lawmakers’ pork barrel.

Walang-hiya ka, ikaw kamag-anak ko, ikaw pa nagtratraydor sa akin. Kaya pala nababawasan yung PDAF ko dahil sa mga hidden transaction ng mga chief-of-staff ng mga senador,” Napoles told Luy. (How dare you! We’re related but you still betrayed me. No wonder my PDAF was reduced, you have hidden transactions with the chiefs-of-staffs of senators.) 

The exchange happened on Dec 19, 2012 inside the JLN Corp office in Discovery Center, Pasig, according to Luy.

On Friday, October 25, Luy took the stand as the prosecution’s last witness in the hearing for Napoles’ motion for bail at a Makati court. He’s also the principal whistleblower in a plunder complaint lodged by the government against Napoles before the Ombudsman.

At the Makati court, Napoles and Lim face serious illegal detention charges for allegedly keeping Luy in custody from December 2012 to March 2013. Napoles is detained at a police training facility in Laguna, while Lim is still at large. Napoles’ lawyers have asked the court to grant her motion to post bail. The prosecution however wants the motion denied, thus the presentation of witnesses against Napoles such as Luy.

Luy, who cried at certain points during his testimony, said both Lim and Napoles threatened him and his family while he was detained. He said the two kept him close because he knew a lot.

Ikaw nakaka-alam lahat ng sikreto, transaction ni [Janet Lim Napoles]. Lahat ng mga bank accounts niya, ikaw nakaka-alam,” Reynald Lim allegedly told Benhur.

Threat to his life, family

Based on Luy’s testimony, Napoles discovered his alleged “hidden transactions” because she was going through his phone. Initially, she was furious because she thought Luy was in contact with “Flor,” a fortune teller Napoles wasn’t fond of.

Flor, in reality, was Luy’s childhood friend Mariaflor Villanueva. But while she went through Luy’s other messages, Napoles saw text messages from a certain “Maya,” allegedly a project coordinator for Senators Loren Legarda and Bongbong Marcos.

At that point, a furious Napoles called for Bong de Asis, her driver, security aide, and president of one of her foundations. “Ikulong na yan! Ikulong na yan!” Luy recalled Napoles as telling de Asis. (Lock him up, lock him up!)

Still at the JLN offices in Discovery Center, Napoles’ lawyers – an Atty Richard Gambe, Atty Villamor, and later an Atty Raffy Nelson – came in and out of the room Luy was staying in. “Alam mo Benhur, ako convicted criminal na ako. Wala nang saysay buhay ko. Willing akong pumatay para sa ate ko,” Napoles’ brother Reynaldo Lim allegedly said, after hitting him on the head. (Benhur, I’m a convicted criminal. My life has no purpose, I’m willing to kill for my sister.)

‘What was going on?’

Lim then ordered Luy to write a letter to Napoles, asking for her forgiveness.

And so he wrote the following:

Dear madame, sorry kung inisip niyong traydor ako or ahas ako. Madame bakit mo to ginagawa sa akin? Di mo ba alam madame, marami akong alam sa transaction? Kung mapapansin mo madame, sa lahat ng mga empleyado mo, ako yung hindi nagcacash advance? Ako yung palaging pumapasok sa opisina. Sinusunod lahat ng mga instructions mo? Ginagawa ko lahat ng mga utos mo na kahit labag sa kalooban ko, ginagawa ko.”

Luy said he was confused and very afraid. At around 7:30 in the evening of Dec 19, 2012, Lim said Luy would be put behind bars because “senators and mayors” upset over his “betrayal” were sending in the police.

Wag niyong paalisin si Benhur ha? Si madame nasa kabila, andiyan na yung CIDG at mga pulis. Nag-aantay sa baba,” Lim reportedly told Nap Sibayan, a security aide at JLN.

Lim and Napoles’ security then transferred Luy to a hotel room a few floors down. There, Luy said he was sleepless – he wasn’t sure what Napoles and Lim could and would do to his mother Gertrudes Luy, who was the nanny of Napoles’ children.

The next day, December 20, Lim showed Benhur Luy  a photo of his mother Gertrudes at a birthday party for Napoles’ deceased mother. “Mahal mo mama mo diba?” Lim asked Benhur. (You love your mother, right?)

Nagets ko na yung ibig niyang sabihin na parang sinabi nila na yung mother ko nasa kanila,” said an emotional Luy. (I understood what he was saying: my mother was in their custody.)

His family, Luy explained, is the reason why he never tried to free himself from Lim and Napoles’ security. Even if, as the prosecution pointed out, he was a marathoner.

Meeting ‘Monsi’

After a few days, Lim told Luy they would be moving him again. This time, they went to Napoles’ house in Magallanes, which was being “rented” by Monsignor Josefino Ramirez.

Luy said he had never been to the Magallanes house before, but he knew of Napoles’ connections to Ramirez because he used to record the priests’ P150,000 monthly stipend. “Monsi, dito muna namin itatago si Benhur,” Lim reportedly told Ramirez. (Monsignor, we’ll hide Benhur here for now.)

Months later, Luy was rescued from Pacific Plaza Towers, where Napoles owns two units. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.