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MANILA, Philippines – All they wanted at the time was to recover some P5 million to P6 million in deposits which were allegedly commingled with Janet Napoles’ hidden deposits at the Air Material Wing Savings and Loan Association Inc (AMWSLAI), a savings and loan cooperative for members of the Air Force.
But Napoles rejected the plea of the family of whistle blower Benhur Luy, believing she still had the upperhand. Her husband Jaime was with the Philippine Marines.
Luy’s former lawyer, Levito Baligod, on Wednesday, June 11, said that a few days after Luy was rescued by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation in March 2013, his mother Gertrudes appealed to Napoles to allow her to withdraw her money amounting to between P5 million to P6 million deposited under her name at the AMWSLAI.
The account had a total of P25 million in deposits, but Baligod said, the bulk belonged to Napoles with Luy’s mother serving only as a dummy.
Napoles had Luy detained for 3 months after she found out that her former record keeper and trusted staff had started his own “business” similar to hers. The ploy involved cornering the Priority Development Assistance Fund of lawmakers in exchange for generous kickbacks.
With Luy already rescued, Baligod said his family was willing to drop the illegal detention charge against Napoles and her brother Reynald, provided they got to withdraw their own money.
“The illegal detention case would have been settled, but Napoles did not allow the Luys to get their money.” The Luys said they saved the money from years of working with Napoles.
Maid, driver, friends as dummies
In a March 23, 2013 conversation with Napoles’ lawyer Alfredo Villamor, Baligod said the request to withdraw AMWSLAI funds under Gertrudes’ name was relayed. Her son Benhur reportedly also had deposits of P25 million.
The accounts were actually among the 16 dummy accounts that Napoles allegedly opened to hide the public funds taken from her pork barrel operations. Two accounts were under Napoles’ own name, with deposits all totaling P30 million.
Going by Luy’s ledger on the AMWSLAI accounts, Napoles’ former maid and driver are as rich or even richer than she.
With transactions beginning October 2009 continuing to April 2011, the ledger showed deposits amounting to P443 million that were supposedly parked in AMWSLAI, with deposits ranging from P2 million to P100 million.
Napoles’ driver, John Raymond de Asis, and her friend, former Metrobank-Magdalena branch manager Ma. Winnie Villanueva, had the biggest deposits amounting to P100 million each.
Napoles’ former maid Vanessa Eman – said to be now based in Hongkong as a domestic helper – had P25 million under her name. A daughter of Napoles’ friend, Agrarian Reform official Teresita Panlilio, had P30 million under her name.
On her side, Napoles’ husband Jaime had P25 million, with son James Christopher and daughter Jo Christine P10 million each having under their name. (READ: No immunity for Napoles’ children, say senators)
Luy’s record showed that the accounts, apparently time deposits, had annual interest rates ranging from 10%-13%. The records also showed the interest payments received on the maturity periods.
Baligod gave this narrative as he sought to debunk persistent allegations that he tried to extort money from Napoles in exchange for the dropping of charges pertaining to Luy’s illegal detention and to the pork barrel scam.
The scam involved the misuse and abuse of billions of pesos in public funds that exchanged hands in the form of kickbacks and commissions for lawmakers, government officials, and Napoles herself.
The lawyer, who formerly served as counsel for Luy for both the illegal detention case and the pork barrel complaint, said two recorded conversations, which he said had been spliced, are making the rounds to destroy his credibility.
Copies of the alleged wiretapped conversations were given to him in August last year, in what he believes is an attempt to silence him. What worries him is that it may have reached the President, Baligod said.
His suspicion was bolstered when the Palace last week referred to Napoles’ letter dated April 7, 2013, claiming she was being blackmailed by Baligod and retired General Rodolfo Diaz and being forced to cough up P38 million. When she refused the alleged demand, Baligod allegedly asked for P250 million to P300 million, among others, in exchange for the dropping of the serious illegal detention case.
One of the recorded conversations, lasting for a few minutes, had Baligod talking with Villamor. Baligod recalled an upset Villamor calling him up around 7 in the morning of March 23, 2013. It was during the same conversation that the request involving the Luys’ AMWSLAI accounts was made.
While they were talking about the illegal detention case, Baligod said Villamor, out of turn, referred to something about being “too exorbitant.” Not knowing what Villamor was referring to, he dismissed Villamor’s off-the-cuff remark at the time. It was only when he got the recorded conversation that it dawned on him it was an entrapment attempt.
He said he informed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima about his conversation with Villamor and was advised by her to avoid Napoles’ lawyer.
Two days later, on March 25, Baligod, accompanied by Diaz, met with Napoles and Villamor at the Sulo Hotel. There, Napoles and Villamor raised their offer but Baligod said he flatly rejected them.
Baligod also said the second wiretapped conversation, about 3 minutes, was intentionally edited to put him in a bad light. “The meeting lasted 30 minutes. I want them to produce the entire conversation,” Baligod said.
He claimed that some unscrupulous people are trying to “sell” the purported audio recording to interested parties.
The AMWSLAI accounts were among the 413 accounts ordered frozen by the Court of Appeals in August 2013 based on the request of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
The CA also imposed a freeze order on the accounts of several personalities involved in the pork barrel scandal as well that of the bogus NGOs that Napoles ordered set up for her scheme.
In March 2014, a Manila Regional Trial Court issued an Assets Preservation Order (APO) against Napoles, her family members, and others involved in the scam in connection with the forfeiture of assets petition filed by the AMLC. Among those covered by the APO were Luy’s assets and bank deposits. – Rappler.com