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Other than NGOs, Napoles suppliers also 'spurious'

MANILA, Philippines – Even the trading firms that supposedly supplied agricultural items to Janet Lim Napoles' dubious non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam were either unregistered or unlicensed companies, government records show.

Prosecution witness and Commission on Audit (COA) Assistant Commissioner Susan Garcia revealed before the 3rd division of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Friday, August 15, that 3 trading firms contracted by using Senator Juan Ponce Enrile's development funds were "spurious."

Garcia said these firms included TNU Trading, Nutri-Growth, and Ditchon Trading. These are the same companies that state witness Benhur Luy claims to be controlled by alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Napoles.

Luy alleged that the companies were mere fronts used by Napoles to make it seem that agricultural items were to be distributed by dummy NGOs that she also controlled.  (READ: Napoles fooled agencies with rotten crops – Luy)

But the agricultural packages never reached their supposed beneficiaries and the money was instead pocketed by Napoles and her cohorts, state investigators found. Lawmakers and agency officials allegedly received kickbacks for ensuring that the Priority Development Assistance Fund went to Napoles' groups.

Garcia said the suppliers contracted in Enrile's projects reported gross sales way below their transactions with government and had documents, such as official receipts, that failed to comply with revenue regulation standards.

She added that local governments that supposedly received the agricultural kits denied the existence of any such livelihood programs. 

The agricultural items supplied by the 3 trading firms were procured by state firms using Enrile's PDAF through an agreement with NGOs. The packages were supposed to benefit poor rural communities.

Garcia was called to the witness stand for the hearing on Napoles' bail plea in relation to her plunder case with Enrile.

The plunder cases over the PDAF scam before the anti-graft court are premised on a modus operandi where Napoles controlled both the NGOs and the suppliers to fake government projects.

She allegedly defrauded the government in millions and gave kickbacks to cooperating government officials, including lawmakers like Enrile.

Napoles was mere supplier?

Her testimony comes after lawyers of Napoles pushed for an alternative theory before a separate division that their client was merely a supplier of goods to government and did not control NGOs now alleged to have diverted public funds to fictitious projects. 

Napoles' lawyers claim it was Luy, their client's former finance officer, who faked the programs hosted by NGOs. They said Napoles, unaware of Luy's actions, continued to deliver on the goods as a supplier.

Prosecutors handling her plunder case before the 3rd division didn't wait any longer to demolish this claim.

The COA executive called the transfer of PDAF to the NGOs a "scheme," to which Napoles' lead counsel Stephen David objected to. She earlier testified that the NGOs broke rules prescribed in dealing with government.

David argued the fund transfers were regular transactions entered into for the implementation of government projects.

Residential addresses

But Garcia belied David's claim. She presented government records accessed by COA in its special audit of the PDAF from 2007 to 2009. 

Garcia said TNU Trading had been unlicensed by the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority since 2007, even as it continued its transactions with NGOs contracted by government.

The livelihood packages funded by Enrile's PDAF contained vegetable seeds and gardening tools, among others.

Garcia said Nutri-Growth supplied the fertilizers, while TNU Trading supplied knapsack sprayers and other items. But the firms showed residential places as their addresses.

These "offices," which were visited by COA staff also "appeared" to be incapable of entering into multi-million-peso transactions with government, she said.

Records from the Securities and Exchange Commission accessed by Rappler also show TNU Trading and Ditchon Trading are inexistent, unregistered companies.

'Kevlar' scheme lived on

The PDAF scam is the biggest corruption scandal to hit the country in recent years.

The scam is similar to the scheme Napoles allegedly employed in cornering a P3.8-million contract to deliver 500 Kevlar helmets to the Philippine Marines in 1998, albeit on a much more massive scale.

Napoles allegedly used dummy companies to participate in the bidding for the supply of the military helmets.

These companies were put up on paper by her mother, brother, and sister-in-law, who then became as a matter of formality the signatories to the government deal. –