Senators’ calls caused panic – Cunanan

Buena Bernal
State witness Dennis Cunanan narrates instances when the senators themselves talked to him over the phone to have the approval of the allegedly fake projects fast-tracked

Photo from www.trc.dost.gov.ph

MANILA, Philippines – Provisional state witness Dennis Cunanan, who is on an indefinite leave as director general of state firm Technology Resource Center (TRC), bares witness to orders by senators to fast-track fund releases to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) linked to the multi-million-peso pork barrel scam.

In his 36-page sworn statement submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman Friday, February 21, Cunanan narrated instances when either the senators themselves talked to him over the phone on the matter or representatives of the NGOs handling the allegedly bogus projects would appear in his office.

“Said follow-ups and visits often caused undue panic among the staff receiving the calls or welcoming the lobby visitors to the Center because these legislators are high-ranking officials of the government,” Cunanan said.

Cunanan tagged 3 senators linked to the illegal siphoning off of taxpayers’ money – Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile. He, however, admitted that Enrile never personally dealt with him but through his former chief of staff Gigi Reyes.

“Needless to state, it was because of this tremendous pressure tactics exerted by Senators Enrile, Revilla, and Estrada, and certain Congressmen and their representatives, together with the representatives of their selected NGOs, which compelled many of us at TRC to process and approve on their PDAF-funded (Priority Development Assistance Fund) projects despite our initial misgivings about the same,” Cunanan revealed.

The 3 senators, along with Cunanan, are facing plunder complaints before the Ombudsman in relation to the scam.

Cunanan completes the story

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Friday that Cunanan’s testimony was “important” as it flatly debunks the claims of all 3 senators that they had no hand in the selection of the NGO-recipients of their funds.

“Another angle of the entire story has been completed,” she said.

Documents submitted by Cunanan which TRC had copies of by virtue of being the conduit to the allegedly PDAF-funded projects show that the senators gave “express warranty” that the Napoles-linked NGOs were legitimate and bona fide entity with legal standing,” De Lima said.

Hindi daw po sila, yung TRC, ang pumili ng mga NGO na yan. Merong express acknowledgement that the senator concerned has endorsed that NGO as the implementor of the projects,” she said, citing Cunanan’s testimony.

(It was not the TRC who chose the NGOs [receiving the PDAF]. There was express acknowledgement that the senator concerned has endorsed that NGO as the implementor of the projects.)

Enrile, Estrada and Revilla have said they only allowed the release of their pork barrel to NGOs but were not privy to their transactions nor to the fact that they were fake.

With his application as state witness provisionally approved by the Department of Justice (DOJ), Cunanan will be under the custody of the DOJ Witness Protection Program. His immunity from suit will be determined by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, upon her evaluation of his testimony. (READ: DOJ: Ex-TRC chief now a provisional state witness in PDAF case)

Cunanan announced his indefinite leave as TRC Chief on September 2013, after he and his agency were linked to the pork barrel scam. TRC is a government corporation under the Department of Science and Technology.

The fund diversion of lawmakers’ PDAF to bogus projects is allegedly masterminded by Janet Napoles, whose NGOs serve in paper as beneficiaries of the funds.

The sham was revealed by principal whistleblower Benhur Luy, who was rescued by Philippine authorities in March 2013. He was allegedly illegally detained by Napoles.  

How Cunanan was acquianted with Napoles NGOs

Cunanan said that, even prior to his receipt of notices from senators that PDAF projects will be coursed through TRC, Napoles appeared in his office “sometime in 2006 or 2007” to state in advance that TRC will be receiving “substantial funds” from the PDAF of the 3 senators.

“According to her, the legislators expect TRC to expeditiously process and approve their PDAF-funded projects to be implemented by the NGOs they have chosen and not to make the process, particularly, the release of the funds to the NGOs slow and difficult,” Cunanan said.

Cunanan said his female visitor was accompanied at that time by then Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Assistant Secretary and now Candaba mayor Rene Maglanque.

Maglanque was earlier implicated as a Napoles associate in the DOTC.

Cunanan added that his visitor also mentioned names of congressmen whose names he “cannot recall now.” 

These congressmen, Cunanan said, often personally followed-up and “sought immediate processing and transfer of funds to their designated implementing NGOs partners.”

The legislators lobbied “for the immediate release of checks to their selected NGOs,” he said. 

While Napoles introduced the system of TRC being a conduit of the projects under Napoles-linked NGOs, it was one Evelyn “Belen” D De Leon who was “relentless in pressuring the TRC to expedite their projects to the point that she was at the TRC almost every day.”

Cunanan observed that De Leon – who initially introduced herself to him as the duly authorized representative of NGO Philippine Social Development Foundation, Inc – was “also following-up on the projects of several NGOs.”

When Cunanan inquired about this, he was told by De Leon in the vernacular that the NGOs were linked (“Magkakasama po kami“). 

Comparing documents

Earlier, another respondent in the PDAF case surfaced as witness against senators charged over the scam.

Socialite Ruby Tuason, who claims to be the bagman for the PDAF kickbacks of Estrada and Enrile, was announced as a provisional state witness by the DOJ on February 7.

Tuason’s testimony was regarded as ‘slam dunk evidence’ by De Lima, as it supposedly pins down the two senators as direct recipients of kickbacks from the scam.

Like Cunanan who says he has never personally dealt with Enrile himself, Tuason in a Senate hearing also fell short of ascertaining that Enrile knew of the PDAF scam-related transactions allegedly made by his aide Reyes.

DOJ will be comparing the documents in their possession to the ones submitted by Cunanan, said de Lima. – Rappler.com

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