Why the Napoles children are co-accused in the pork barrel scam
MANILA, Philippines – The children of Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged architect of the country's biggest corruption scandal in recent history, have asked the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to dismiss the graft case filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against them.
On Monday, June 16, Jo Christine and James Cristopher, the oldest of 4 children of Napoles, asked the court to defer the issuance of arrest warrants and suspend proceedings against them. The two denied any involvement in the illegal diversion of public funds to their mother's fake non-governmental organizations.
But why were the Napoles children included in the charges in the first place?
The graft charges against the two are based on affidavits of former Napoles employees-turned-whistleblowers, who divulged details about an intricate scam that has rocked the nation.
According to the affidavits of the whistleblowers submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) however, the children were heavily involved in the scam, specifically in the pocketing of P900 million ($20.5 million) worth of government money from the highly discretionary Malampaya fund that was meant for victims of Typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng. Specifically, the special fund was intended to help farmers who lost their livelihood due to the natural calamities.
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Napoles, who faces plunder and graft charges and is currently detained for separate charges of serious illegal detention, is accused of conniving with lawmakers and government officials to siphon public funds to her fake NGOs in exchange for hefty commissions.
In the affidavits, employee Merlina Suñas said Napoles called a meeting in her office in July or August 2008 to announce she had secured funds from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Suñas was one of Napoles' employees at JLN Corporation, the alleged front for her scam.
"At that time, we had no idea where the funds were coming from or how much they were. Madame Jenny just ordered us to prepare documents for projects. We followed her orders and we prepared documents," Suñas said in her affidavit.
Suñas said aside from the other employees, the others present in the meeting were Jo Christine, known as "Neneng" among the employees, and James Cristopher or "Butsoy."
It was only in October 2009, Suñas said, that Napoles told them the DAR funds were worth P900 million. The amount was from the Malampaya fund that was allotted by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to DAR in 2009 after a series of typhoons battered the country in 2009.
Among the documents Napoles asked her staff to prepare to be submitted to DAR were letters of request of mayors, Memoranda of Agreement, and project proposals.
When asked who forged signatures of fake beneficiaries of the DAR funds, Suñas said, "Madame Jenny, her children Jo Christine and James Christopher, and us employees of JLN Corporation."
"The ones we didn't finish signing at the office of JLN Corporation, Madame Jenny Napoles brought back to her house where they continued the signing along with the house help, drivers and security," she added.
Napoles, allegedly with the help of former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and other former DAR officials, successfully got the P900-million bid. None of the funds ever reached the supposed beneficiaries and instead supposedly ended up in Napoles' manufactured NGOs.
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima also said the Executive Order of Arroyo allowing the release of funds from Malampaya was issued only 5 days after Napoles' requests were approved by the agrarian reform department.
Officers of JLN
But the diversion of the P900 million was not the children's only involvement, according to the affidavits. Suñas also said Jo Christine and James officially worked at the JLN office at Discovery Center in Pasig City.
Jo Christine, she said, was the Vice President (VP) for admin and finance of the fake company, while James Christopher was the VP for operations. The positions were confirmed by primary whistleblower Benhur Luy.
Luy also revealed Napoles' illegal transactions with other government agencies, and the process of government officials receiving their kickbacks. Luy said Jo Christine was involved in these exchanges as well.
As Napoles' assistant, Luy was in charge of preparing vouchers, which included the name of politicians, the date, the voucher's control number, and the amount they would receive.
Luy said he would sign these vouchers and have them screened either by Jo Christine or Napoles' brother, Reynald "Jojo" Lim.
"Once they had reviewed it, they would sign it and give it to Madame Janet Lim Napoles. She would review it and it would be her that would approve it," Luy said.
"Then they would return the voucher to me so I could prepare the money. I'd get money from the vault inside the JLN Corporation office."
Luy said Jo Christine and James Cristopher were so involved in the operations, that they knew the code names used for the senators who regularly transacted with Napoles, specifically "Tanda" for Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, "Sexy" for Senator Jinggoy Estrada, and "Pogi" for Senator Bong Revilla.
Jeane Napoles, beneficiary
Aside from the day-to-day transactions at the office, Luy said Jo Christine also has a beneficiary account in the United States with Wells Fargo, where Janet Napoles would deposit dollars she bought from the black market.
Luy said she bought dollars when she had too much money, and used it to purchase properties abroad and to sustain the lifestyle of her brother Reynald Lim, and her younger daughter Jeane Napoles.
Jeane Napoles also has a beneficiary account under her name, supposedly associated with Union Bank in Manhattan Village.
Jeane, who has gained notoriety online because of photos on her social media accounts of her designer shoes, clothing and lavish lifestyle – luxury cars and travels were part of this as well – does not face any charges in relation to the scam, as she was not directly implicated by the whistleblowers.
She does however, face tax evasion charges. An earlier Rappler report also revealed as a student, she was the owner of a luxurious Ritz-Carlton apartment in the heart of Los Angeles. She is believed to have sold, if not tried to sell, the unit.
Aside from the children of Napoles, other relatives are also said to be involved in the scam, according to the affidavits.
Reynald Lim, the brother of Napoles, has an arrest warrant against him and is now considered a fugitive after having evaded arrest for nearly a year. He too is accused of serious illegal detention for kidnapping Luy, which led to Luy's divulging of the scam to the NBI.
Whistleblowers said Lim was JLN's IT Officer. He also has a beneficiary account in Bank of America.
Napoles' other brother Ronald Lim is said to have also been involved in the scam, and was named by whistleblowers as VP for special projects of JLN Corporation. He was also listed as president of one of Napoles' fake NGOs which she used for fund diversion.
The involvement, however, does not stop there. Ronald Lim's son, John, was also a president of yet another bogus NGO, and allegedly helped forged signatures in the P900-million DAR scheme. He is also the supposed project manager of JLN.
Both Ronald and his son John also face charges before the Ombudsman in relation to the Malampaya fund scam.
Even Napoles' own husband, Jaime Napoles, is tagged by whistleblowers as a consultant of JLN. While he, too, held office at Discovery Suites in Ortigas Center, he does not face charges because of lack of evidence linking him to the scam. – Rappler.com