Napoles lawyer Stephen David once presented at Cabinet meeting

Pia Ranada
Napoles lawyer Stephen David once presented at Cabinet meeting
The agenda of the 5th Cabinet meeting shows David made a presentation about proposals to develop Sangley Point Airport

Lawyer Stephen David’s close ties to President Rodrigo Duterte was put under the national spotlight when he admitted asking for legal advice from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on the move to transfer alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles from a regular jail to a safehouse.

David has often been seen in Malacañang events but a document obtained by Rappler showed he even participated in a Cabinet meeting, and may have presented, not about a legal case, but about an economic proposal. (READ: Duterte’s links to Janet Lim Napoles’ lawyers)

A copy of the agenda of the 5th Cabinet meeting held on August 22, 2016 showed that David was at least expected to make a presentation about a proposal to move domestic airport operations to Sangley Point in Cavite.

Item B under “Agenda Items” reads: “Proposed Utilization of the Sangley Point Airport to Decongest NAIA.” Identified as the person in charge of this agenda item is “Atty Stephen David.”

An official present at the meeting confirmed to Rappler that the presentation took place.

PART OF CABINET MEETING. This document shows Stephen David joined a Cabinet meeting and may have even made a presentation. Rappler sourced photo

Back in November 2016, the Philippine Star reported that David was invited to Malacañang, along with Wilson and William Tieng of the Solar Entertainment Group to pitch their proposal to reclaim 2,500 hectares of land to build a new international airport beside the Sangley airbase. 

It was not clear, however, what part David played in the pitch. That he was listed as being in charge of the presentation indicates either a vital role in the project or good ties with Malacañang.

The proposal to develop Sangley Point is backed by big businessmen. 

The group of Henry Sy Sr and William Tieng, for instance, had proposed a P1.3-trillion Philippine Global Gateway project, which includes an airport, seaport, and special economic zone.

San Miguel Corporation, led by businessman Ramon Ang, is also keen on joining the public bidding for the development of an airport in Sangley Point.

David has other ties to Duterte and the administration, particularly in the realm of government finance.

His wife, Lanee Cui-David, also a Napoles lawyer, was appointed by Duterte deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in July 2016. The BIR, under the Department of Finance, deals with collecting taxes from both individuals and corporations.

It was Stephen David’s easy access to Malacañang that gave him the chance to ask Medialdea in person about Napoles’ transfer. (READ: Stephen David using Palace connections for Napoles?)

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque denied that the Palace had a hand in the provisional state protection for Napoles.

“Malacañang is not behind anything as far as Napoles is concerned,” said Roque on Tuesday, March 20.

The Duterte administration had also denied it had accommodated Napoles and her lawyers after Solicitor-General Jose Calida recommended the acquittal of Janet Lim Napoles in the case of serious illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.