Another pork scam whistleblower relieves Baligod
MANILA, Philippines – Are there trust issues hounding the now-controversial lawyer Levito Baligod?
On Friday, May 23, another state witness in the multi-million-peso pork barrel scam relieved Baligod as her counsel.
Without stating the reason behind her decision, Priority Development Assistance Fund scam whistleblower Merlina Suñas wrote Baligod to inform him she has decided to continue her battles without his guidance.
In her letter, Suñas thanked Baligod for his "friendship" and his year-long service.
"... you have stood beside me despite all the difficulties that we have encountered along the way," she wrote.
Suñas was admitted as a state witness in 2013 for her testimony on the illegal PDAF diversion scheme; she was a project coordinator of JLN Corporation. The company is owned by alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, whose fake non-governmental organizations (NGOs) became beneficiaries of millions of pesos taken from the PDAF of lawmakers.
With the complicity of Philippine lawmakers who received kickbacks in exchange for allowing their pork barrel to be diverted to ghost projects, the scam has become the biggest corruption scandal to hit the country in recent years.
Not the first to let go of Baligod
Like principal PDAF scam state witness Benhur Luy, Suñas is currently under the custody of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Witness Protection Program.
Luy earlier relieved Baligod too, saying the lawyer was too busy with other matters. With Baligod alleging that he was fired because he would be a hindrance to certain quarters trying to influence Luy, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima came to Luy's defense and denied the claim. (READ: DOJ: Benhur Luy free from influence of politicians)
Baligod is currently under fire for allegedly failing to protect Luy’s digital records and in effect divulging to the public sensitive information from his client. (READ: 'Napolist' frenzy reignites Luy-Baligod tussle)
It was Baligod who went to the office of the Philippine Daily Inquirer with Luy's parents, from whom a copy of Luy's digital records were sourced by the national daily.
The hard disk drive, now the subject of a subpoena by the Senate, is part of the evidence the state – through the NBI – is working on to secure convictions in relation to the scam. (READ: De Lima to submit Benhur Luy drive to Senate)
Baligod's role in PDAF scam revelation
While Baligod is no longer counsel for any of the whistleblowers who surfaced to tell all about Napoles' fund diversion scheme, he was extensively involved in the government's unraveling of the PDAF scam.
Baligod was a co-complainant with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) when it filed the first batch of criminal complaints against those involved in the scam. The complaints were brought before the Ombudsman.
In February 2013, Baligod agreed to help get the NBI to rescue Luy who, at the time, had been detained by Napoles since December 2012. Luy was finally rescued by NBI agents in March 2013.
It was also Baligod who initially litigated for Luy in the serious illegal detention case lodged against Napoles and her brother, Reynald "Jojo" Lim, before a Makati Court. The case, still being heard, is the reason why Napoles is under detention.
Suñas is also a witness in the said case.
For her part, Suñas submitted to the NBI on September 2013 a narration that detailed what she knew about the PDAF scam as a former JLN employee.
In her initial affidavit, Suñas said Napoles ordered the forging of signatures of some of the presidents of the Napoles-controlled NGOs. She said these individuals were unaware their names were used by Napoles as presidents and incorporators of NGOs that siphoned off government funds.
She enumerated these NGO presidents, including Gertrudes Luy, Vanessa Eman, Nova Kay Dulay, and Nemesio Pablo. It was Napoles who allegedly controlled any and all of the operations of the subject NGOs.
Suñas identified these NGOs, which included the Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc and the Peoples Organization For Progress and Development Foundation Inc.
A supplemental affidavit that Suñas submitted on September 30 to the NBI also narrated what she knows about the Malampaya fund scam. (READ: How the Malampaya fund was plundered)
Suñas said Napoles ordered her and other JLN employees to falsify documents and forge sugnatures of intended beneficiaries, auditors, notary public, and even mayors in relation to the Malampaya fund scam.
Agri funds scam
Although relieved by PDAF scam whistleblowers of his duty to litigate for them, Baligod remains a busy man. He is set to wed defeated Baybay City mayoral bet Marilou "Malot" Galenzoga.
Baligod also remains to be the lawyer of former Nabcor executives Rhodora Mendoza and Elvira Castelo, who tipped the DOJ about a separate fund diversion scheme. (READ: Former Nabcor execs tip de Lima about P5-B agri funds misuse)
Mendoza is among the 38 facing criminal complaints before the Ombudsman over the PDAF scam. She was among the first batch of individuals who faced a complaint filed by the DOJ.
In separate affidavits submitted to the DOJ, Mendoza and Castelo revealed how government funds intended for agriculture projects were siphoned off through state firm National Agri-Business Corporation. (READ: [Exclusive] Ex-Nabcor execs copied Napoles pork barrel scam)
It was Baligod who accompanied Mendoza and Victor Cacal, also a former Nabcor official who faces criminal complaints before the Ombudsman, to the DOJ to reveal the scam. – Rappler.com