MANILA, Philippines – Is she finally telling the truth this time?
A lawyer for principal whistleblower Benhur Luy, in a recent phone interview, admitted that one of the conditions Luy set before he turned state witness was the rejection of any attempt by alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles to turn state witness.
A source who had contact with the whistleblowers said Luy was “surprised” with the turn of events and was worried that Napoles “was trying to muddle things.”
Levito Baligod, former principal counsel of Luy, said he was at a loss as to why Justice Secretary Leila de Lima even entertained Napoles in the first place. “She’s a pathological liar and she will invent things and exaggerate these,” he said.
Baligod had experienced this first hand. He was accused by Napoles before the National Bureau of Investigation of trying to extort P300 million to relocate Luy in Canada. Baligod said Napoles twisted the context of that encounter, saying it was Napoles who tried to bribe him in exchange for dropping the illegal detention case filed by Luy.
Baligod said this was not the first time that Napoles sought to muddle the ongoing probe in the pork barrel scam. He recalled that sometime in October or November 2013, an emissary from Napoles’ camp sent word that her lawyer wanted to meet with Baligod. “She was sending feelers that she wanted to spill the beans,” Baligod said.
Baligod informed De Lima about this but she thumbed down the meeting, which eventually got aborted.
But almost 9 months since she surrendered in late August 2013, Napoles supposedly had a change of heart and agreed to divulge the gory details of the scam.
Napoles and Luy are the key characters in the biggest corruption scandal to hit the country in recent years. Luy is the government’s principal witness against Napoles, who is accused of masterminding an elaborate and massive scheme. With the help of some lawmakers, Napoles diverted government funds to fake non-governmental organizations. Napoles herself, some lawmakers, and government officials ended up pocketing these funds, Luy and other witnesses said.
Meeting in April
De Lima said she met with Napoles for 5 hours on April 21, 2014, when Napoles herself narrated to De Lima what she knew. The justice secretary clarified that Napoles submitted an initial signed affidavit on Tuesday, May 13. (Read: DOJ: Napoles’ full written testimony will dispel fears)
Lawyers for the whistleblowers were taken off guard when De Lima announced she was considering Napoles as state witness.
Napoles has purportedly drawn up a complete list of lawmakers who benefited from the scam since it began. Her husband, retired Marine soldierJaime, and her children reportedly met with former Senator Panfilo Lacson and provided him a list of politicians who supposedly benefitted from Napoles’ web of corruption.
Lacson disclosed this meeting with them after De Lima announced hers with Napoles. He also provided the Senate blue ribbon committee with the purported Napoles tell-all list and an “affidavit” which was conveniently unsigned.
Why Lacson did not insist on a signed document, why he jumped the gun on De Lima, and why he submitted the list provided by Jaime Napoles to the blue ribbon committee for public consumption – just as the Senate was about to deliberate on the blue ribbon report on the pork barrel scam – raised questions about his own intentions.
Baligod and Napoles’ former associate whom Rappler was able to interview are skeptical about the list. In the first place, the inclusion of Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad in the published list raises a red flag, the former associate said.
The former friend, who knew Abad, recalled that Napoles sought to be introduced to the budget chief about two or 3 years ago. “Jenny (Napoles’ nickname) was insistent that I introduce her to Abad. She went with me to the DBM [Department of Budget and Management] office. But the secretary did not meet us. He was busy,” the former Napoles friend said. (READ: Abad: No evidence to support Napoles claim)
Baligod said Napoles was “clutching at straws to save her neck, saying half-truths to make herself believable but with half-lies to muddle the probe.”
Baligod and another source also said that Napoles is in close contact with one of the main respondents in the pork barrel case filed by the Ombudsman at the Sandiganbayan.
Baligod surmised that the return of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s former chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes from her self-imposed exile in the US last April, one senator’s out-of-the country trip, and Napoles’ purported tell-all testimony are all interconnected.
And all these may have something to do with the pending complaint before the Ombudsman and the blue ribbon committee report that is scheduled to be reported out to the plenary.
The 3 senators who are at the center of the pork barrel scam – Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr and Jinggoy Estrada – have inhibited themselves from the Senate investigation on the pork barrel scam.
In the alleged Napoles list given to Lacson, 7 more incumbent senators have been dragged in the scandal, raising to 10, or almost half of the entire Senate, the number of senators thrust in the harsh spotlight.
The number of potential senators who could be under pressure to inhibit may rise to 11 if one counts Senator Cynthia Villar, whose husband former Senator Manuel Villar, was also included in the purported list.
Cynthia Villar is already among the 13 senators who have signed the Senate report on the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam. The number represents more than the majority of the blue ribbon committee (11 out of 20 members), which means the report, which recommends the filing of plunder charges against 3 opposition senators, may now be sponsored on the Senate floor.
Napoles’ former friend said she “is prone to making exaggerations and half-lies,” a behavior she and the staff have proven time and again.
Foremost among her skills is name-dropping, the ability to say she is known to this and that politician, only to be proven she had been lying all along. (READ: Madame Jenny, woman in the eye of the storm)
Even her erstwhile friend, Ruby Tuason, who has been admitted by the Ombudsman as state witness, said in her affidavit that Napoles has a propensity to name-drop people she hardly knew. (READ: The secrets of Ruby Tuason)
Years of dealing with Napoles have taught her former friend to take her word with a grain of salt. “She would claim she’s close to this or that official. She has perfected the art of convincing people.”
Even to her former staff, Napoles would play this role to the hilt. “And since she was the boss, the staff would take her word for it.”
One time, Napoles bragged that she was personally known to one power couple. What Napoles did not know was that the former friend was a former staff of the senator and his wife.
“We saw the senator and his wife in a hotel, having dinner with the children. When the senator saw us, he called me up and we exchanged pleasantries. But he only gave a blank stare to Napoles.”
Realizing the situation exposed Napoles’ empty boast, the former friend introduced her to the senator. “Still, she acted as if she did not brag knowing the senator.”
Behind that seemingly inarticulate woman is a calculating mind who knows how to use people and circumstances to her advantage, the former close friend said. “Do not underestimate her,” she warned. – Rappler.com
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