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Benhur thought NBI sent by 'mayors, senators'

MANILA, Philippines – There was a commotion, and he wasn't really sure of what was happening.

Then he saw men with guns, and thought it was going to be the end of him. It was March 22, 2013, the night former JLN employee turned pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy was rescued by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

"Mang, ano ba ito? Walang akong ginawang masama, Kuya Jojo" Benhur Luy said. (Ma, what is this? I didn't do anything wrong, Kuya Jojo.)

"Nagkagulo na, may lumapit sa akin na tao. Hindi ko narinig. Basta sabi niya sa akin: Benhur Luy? Benhur Luy?" Benhur recalled on Tuesday, October 29, while on the stand as the prosecution's last witness in the hearing for the motion for bail of Luy's former employer, alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

(It was chaos, someone approached me but I didn't hear what he said. But I did hear him say: Benhur Luy, Benhur Luy?)

At that time, Luy said, he thought the NBI agents were sent by Napoles, his brother Reynald Lim and "senators and mayors" to "dispatch" him.

Luy was allegedly detained by Napoles and Lim from December 2012 to March 22 this year. Witnesses claimed Napoles and Lim detained Luy because they suspected him of dabbling into Napoles' line of business – siphoning off legislators' funds through dubious NGOs and projects.

Napoles and Lim are charged with serious illegal detention. Napoles is detained at a police training facility in Laguna. Lim was initially detained by the NBI after the rescue but was later freed through a justice department order. The order has since been overturned, but Lim remains at large.

In his previous testimony before the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150, Luy said Lim had threatened him and his family. "Convicted criminal na ako, handa akong gawin ang lahat para sa ate ko," Lim would allegedly remind him. (I'm a convicted criminal and I'm willing to do anything for [Janet Napoles])

After the so-called rescue, Luy was then taken to the NBI, where he still stays as a part of the witness protection program.

Accounts wiped clean

Days after, Luy checked his bank accounts, because he was worried that Lim did not attend to his finances like he promised to.

Luy said he then discovered that most of his accounts had been wiped out. His P800,000 was debited from his Metrobank account and moved to a JLN account. The bank manager, Luy recalled, told him that the bank received a fund transfer form.

Luy said his Metrobank dollar account containing $13,761 was also closed. Other accounts were infiltrated, too. On December 27, a total of P306,008 from a UCBP account was debited from Luy, a bank employee told him. Another passbook account containing P207,000 was closed on February 8.

Only an ATM account in UCBP was left untouched, said Luy.

His recollection of fund transfers fits previous witnesses' testimonies. Merlina Sunas, a former employee of the Napoles-owned JLN Corp, said over P800,000 was transferred from Luy's account to JLN following his alleged detention.

Benhur's letters

Day 2 of Luy's testimony also shed light into pieces of evidence the defense has long wanted discussed in court: letters that Luy allegedly wrote while detained in Napoles' Magallanes property, which at that time also served as the home of Monsignor Josefino Ramirez and several priests.

Luy said he wrote a letter on February 21 after Lim told him his mother Gertrudes and sister Annabelle knew he was in Magallanes. As a result, Lim allegedly told Luy, he would have to be moved to Laguna.

Luy told the court he wrote at least 2 letters while under detention. The first, written in December 2012, was for Napoles. Lim told Luy he needed to ask forgiveness from Napoles. From what, Luy said he wasn't sure.

The Luy family says the letters prove that Benhur was detained against his will. But the defense counters that it doesn't, because the letters made no mention of him being detained.

The February 21 letter was handed over by Benhur to Annabelle Luy during a February 23 meeting. The letter was written out of desparation, Luy said. During their meeting, a tearful Arthur Luy pleaded with Lim to let his brother Benhur go.

"Kung kailangan ibenta yung Montero, kung kailangan mag-utang sa bangko, gagawin ko, palayain lang si Benhur," Arthur Luy allegedly told Lim. (If I need to sell my Montero, if I need to borrow money, I'll do it. Just let Benhur go.)

His family promised him that they would get him back soon.

Day 3

Benhur Luy said that almost a month before he was rescued by the NBI, Lim's lawyer hinted at a possible serious illegal detention charge.

"Lagot tayo kung i-charge tayo ni Benhur ng illegal detention," said Lim's lawyer Alfredo Villamor. But Lim wasn't afraid. (We're in trouble if Benhur charges us with serious illegal detention.)

"Probably, Ben, di mo magagawa sa amin yan," Luy recalled Lim as saying. During the NBI rescue, when Luy was unsure who the armed men were, Villamor's words came back to him.

Villamor himself conducted Luy's cross examination on October 29. Due to time constraints, however, the defense team's cross examination lasted only 30 minutes.

Luy is set to return to the stand on Wednesday, October 30.

Napoles' lawyer Lorna Kapunan expressed dismay over Luy's testimony and "non-responsive" answers. The defense, at several points during Luy's testimony, asked the court to ask that parts of Luy's narration be stricken off the record.

The hearing for Napoles' bail plea was originally scheduled to end last week, but has been extended to accommodate the prosecution's 8 witnesses. The defense has yet to present its own set of witnesses.