Court: Luy got rich with PDAF? Burden of proof on Napoles
MANILA, Philippines – A justice of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan told the camp of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles to produce their own evidence to prove their allegation that it was state witness Benhur Luy, and not their client, who made money from the illegal operations.
Justice Efren dela Cruz was prompted to say this on Thursday, August 14, after Napoles' lead counsel Stephen David pressed Luy to answer questions meant to expose his alleged assets before the court.
David was almost halfway his cross-examination of Luy when Dela Cruz questioned the lawyer about the relevance of his questions about Luy's income and properties.
"Assuming you are able to prove all these properties are his, will that disprove the charge [against Napoles]?" Dela Cruz asked.
Napoles is accused of using fake non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to transact with government agencies and siphon off lawmaker's Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
She allegedly pocketed the money supposedly meant for livelihood projects for the poor and gave millions of pesos in kickbacks to co-conspirators, including lawmakers and officials of implementing agencies.
Her lawyer insisted before the court that Napoles is a mere supplier who provided items to NGOs owned by Luy, among others. David added it was Luy who faked the projects and pocketed money from the scheme.
But Justice Dela Cruz told David to "prove the same using your own evidence" instead of forcing Luy to divulge his wealth. (READ: Napoles camp bent on exposing Luy's wealth)
Luy is a state witness in the case, and has alleged that Napoles put the names of her employees, including household helpers, as incorporators of fake NGOs and instructed them to forge signatures. Other former employees and whistleblowers confirmed this.
This is not about Luy
Prosecutor Joefferson Toribio repeatedly objected to David's questions, insisting that Luy's assets or lack thereof are not the subject matter of the case. (READ: Sandiganbayan justice not keen on opening Luy's bank accounts)
David said Luy's income and whatever amount he might have gained from the multi-million-peso diversion of PDAF is relevant to the case at hand.
"We will prove, your honor, that he received so much and this amount came from the PDAF funds. We will be surprised where he got his acquisitions. The whole PDAF anomaly lie on the credibility of the witness. This is very relevant, your honor, because the issue is where the PDAF funds (sic) went. Where are the PDAF funds (sic)?" he said in court.
David insisted that "it's just right that the state recover these assets [of Luy]."
Select assets of Luy are, however, already the subject of a forfeiture case before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 22. If proven to be ill-gotten, the assets will be permanently seized by the state. (READ: Benhur Luy: My assets are not from PDAF)
The Sandiganbayan 1st division, on the other hand, was hearing the petition of detained Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr and his co-accused to be allowed to post bail.
Revilla, Napoles, her nephew Ronald John Lim, and her driver-bodyguard John Raymund de Asis are charged with plunder for conspiring to defraud the government of P224 million in Revilla's PDAF.
While plunder is a non-bailable offense, bail may be granted if there is no strong evidence of guilt against the accused.
The PDAF scam was divulged to state authorities by Luy, who acted as Napoles' finance officer since 2004.
Palpable tension still simmered between Luy and David, with the former occasionally raising his voice in court when answering questions.
Luy maintained that his participation in the scam, including faking documents and forging signatures, were all "upon the instructions" of Napoles.
But David questioned why Luy was "willingly complying" with Napoles' orders.
"From the very start, you knew these instructions were wrong and yet you were willingly complying," David said in court.
Luy said it was Napoles who took him in her custody since 3rd grade and was the one who employed him as finance officer.
"Kahit papaano, pinatira niya ako sa condo niya, pinapasahod niya ako, may in-assign pa siyang sasakyan sa akin," Luy said. (She allowed me to live in her condominium. She was giving me my salary. She even assigned a car to me.)
"I have no reason to be angry with Madame (Napoles)," added Luy.
While visibly irritated while testifying about his recollections of the times Napoles would pretend to be mad in order not to hand money to her employees, Luy maintained he did not harbor resentment against his former boss.
Luy said he didn't mind if the commissions promised to him were never given in full.
He added he only received P3 million to P4 million over the years of his service assisting in Napoles' illegal transactions. – Rappler.com
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