No trace Napoles owned dummy NGOs? Witness shows IDs

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No trace Napoles owned dummy NGOs? Witness shows IDs
Lawyer and prosecution witness Ryan Medrano is questioned on what evidence the Ombudsman possesses other than whistleblowers' testimonies to prove Janet Napoles owned the NGOs that siphoned off lawmakers' PDAF

MANILA, Philippines – Businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles was extremely cautious her illegal deals with government would not be traced back to her.

Official documents such as government contracts of her dummy non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that were recipients of pork barrel proceeds do not bear her name at all, a state investigator testified Friday, September 26, before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

But the identification cards she allegedly provided to her assigned NGO presidents indicated she owned the said foundations.

While the front portion of the IDs indicated her former aides now state witnesses were presidents of the non-profit organizations, the back portion said the card owner “is an employee of JLN Corporation.”

JLN Corporation is owned by Napoles, allegedly the mother company of NGOs that unlawfully siphoned off millions in lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel with their consent and subsequent financial benefit.

Documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) show Napoles as among JLN’s incorporators.

The IDs were cited in open court, after lawyer and prosecution witness Ryan Medrano was questioned on what evidence his office possessed other than whistleblowers’ testimonies to prove Napoles owned the NGOs that had ghost government-funded projects.

Medrano is with the Ombudsman Field Investigation Office (FIO). He was called to the witness stand to testify on the FIO’s PDAF probe and help prove there is strong evidence of guilt against Napoles.

The Sandiganbayan Third Division is hearing Napoles’ bail plea in relation to her P172-million plunder case with Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. (READ: Court grants Enrile’s request for hospital detention)

JLN EMPLOYEE. At the back portion of IDs of presidents of Napoles-controlled NGOs is a disclaimer indicating the bearer is employed by JLN Corporation. Photo by Rappler

 

Hearsay, forged?

Napoles’ lead counsel Stephen David regarded Medrano’s testimony as mere hearsay, as the investigator never saw for himself his client sign these IDs.

He said he was demanding additional evidence the FIO had – other than whistleblowers’ testimonies – as he doubted their credibility.

Napoles’ former employees Benhur LuyMerlina SuñasMarina “Baby” Sula, among others, turned themselves to state custody in 2013 to reveal and testify about the schemes of their long-time boss. 

The witnesses allegedly helped fabricate documents and forged signatures for their boss’ dirty deals. They had all said they did the forging “upon instructions of Napoles.”

David pointed out during the Friday hearing the ruling of a labor arbiter that Napoles’ signature in Suñas’ JLN identification card seemed to be similar in stroke to Suñas’ own signature. (READ: Labor arbiter: PDAF witness was not Napoles’ employee)

David believes the witnesses are capable of fabricating their testimony based on their own admission that they fabricated government documents.

He earlier said the testimony of an individual who was part of a conspiracy to commit a crime cannot be admitted in court. A co-conspirator in a crime can’t simply apply as a state witness to gain immunity from suit and instead implicate whoever he wishes without independent proof the crime occurred, he said.

Repeatedly brandishing these state witnesses’ statements as “self-serving,” David was admonished by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang for making “unnecessary remarks.”

Tang also asked David to stop making interjections in the middle of Medrano’s answers.

ALMOST AN ENDORSEMENT. Certified true copy of a letter shows Senator Juan Ponce Enrile merely endorsed his representatives and not Napoles-controlled NGOs for the use of his PDAF. Photo by Rappler

‘Endorsement does not constitute a crime’

Justice Alex Quiroz likewise admonished David over what the court ruled to be an objectionable question.

“Does (a senator’s) endorsement per se negate bidding or is that just a guide on how he wants his funds to be utilized?” David asked Medrano. “Is that (letter of endorsement) a request or an order? When a senator makes a request, he will be charged with plunder?” David asked further.

David was echoing an argument by other senators accused over the PDAF scam – that their endorsements of his client’s supposed NGOs were recommendatory at best, and should not be taken by an implementing agency hook, line, and sinker.

The endorsements were not supposed to substitute for prescribed rules such as public bidding.

Aside from Enrile, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr were likewise charged with plunder and graft for allegedly receiving millions in kickbacks from Napoles in exchange for allowing her NGOs to corner their PDAF.

Estrada earlier argued he was merely endorsing NGOs already accredited by implementing agencies such as state-run corporations. He denied having known they were dubious NGOs that had ghost projects.

This argument, the court resolved in ordering his arrest, could be better ventilated in a full-blown trial.

Quiroz tagged David’s questions as misleading. A mere endorsement for obvious reasons is not a crime in itself, he said.

“[It is] as if you’re asking [if[ one overt act constitutes a crime,” he told David, adding that “subsequent events” must be taken into account.

“Mere endorsement does not constitute a crime…It is very premature. He (Medrano) arrived at that conclusion (of plunder), because he considered all the circumstantial things that he probed,” Quiroz said.

David was not the only one in court the justice called out. Even the prosecutors were told, “That’s why you should have posed an objection.”

Enrile did not endorse Napoles’ NGOs?

Unlike in Estrada’s and Revilla’s cases where the prosecution has copies of letters signed by them endorsing Napoles’ NGOs, no such endorsement letter was presented by the prosecution in Enrile’s cases so far.

Enrile merely endorsed his representatives – lawyers Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes and Jose Antonio Evangelista II – to transact on his behalf. He did not name Napoles’ NGOs directly.

Enrile likewise included a disclaimer that Reyes and Evangelista had to “ensure the proper implementation of these projects.” – Rappler.com

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