MANILA, Philippines – The man who himself bared to state authorities an elaborate scheme diverting public funds to ghost projects of registered foundations is now the target of those he accused.
On Wednesday, August 20, defense lawyers in the plunder case of detained senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr pointed at state witnesses led by primary whistleblower Benhur Luy as the ones who operated and benefitted from the pork barrel scam.
"The theory, our defense in this case, is anchored on the fact that it was not Senator Revilla but these witnesses who ran away with the money of the government," Revilla's lawyer Joel Bodegon told the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan 1st division.
Other defense lawyers for Revilla's co-accused jumped in to bolster Bodegon's claim.
Lawyer Mike Ancheta, legal counsel for Revilla's aide Richard Cambe, cited a pending forfeiture case before a Manila court which found probable cause that Luy's assets were illegally sourced from the scam.
"... the ill-gotten wealth didn't go to attorney Richard Cambe, who is not a party to the case, or Senator Revilla, who is also not party to this case... It was his (Luy's) group that falsified documents, facilitated the fund transfers, the enchashment of checks, the withdrawals," Ancheta said.
The Sandiganbayan was hearing the bail plea of Revilla and his co-accused.
While plunder is a non-bailable offense, bail may be granted if there is no strong evidence of guilt against the accused.
Revilla, Cambe, Napoles, and 2 others are charged with plunder for allegedly conspiring to defraud the government in P224 million ($5.1 million*) of Revilla's PDAF.
The scam that state witnesses revealed involved using non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to enter contracts with state firms using the endorsement of lawmakers.
The NGOs will serve on paper as recipients of lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
It was Luy's revelation and the subsequent reports on the massive PDAF misuse that ignited public clamor for greater transparency on public funds. The PDAF or pork barrel was eventualy declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Theory of Napoles camp
The theory that it was Luy who operated and ultimately benefitted from the scheme was first raised by the camp of alleged PDAF scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. (READ: Luy got rich with PDAF? Burden of proof on Napoles)
Lawyers of Napoles pushed for an alternative theory that their client was merely a supplier of goods to government and did not control NGOs now alleged to have siphoned off 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.
To prove this, they have requested for the disclosure in court of Luy's assets and bank accounts. The request was opposed by Luy's lawyers, and the matter has yet to be resolved by the court.
Before the Manila court hearing his forfeiture case, Luy had already denied that his assets are from PDAF. Now testifying before the Sandiganbayan, he said he only received P3 million ($63,329*) to P4 million ($91,105*) from the scam. – Rappler.com
*$1 = P43.9050