MANILA, Philippines – They all have, at one point, sought to distance themselves from Janet Lim-Napoles, whom whistleblowers have tagged as the mastermind of a multi-bilion-peso pork barrel scam.
Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Jinggoy Estrada, however, appear to have become patrons – “suki” in Filipino – of dubious non-governmental organizations (NGOs) controlled by Napoles.
At least this is the story that findings of a state audit tell.
Looking into senators’ fund releases from 2007 to 2009, the Commission on Audit (COA) found that allocations under the names of Enrile, Revilla, and Estrada repeatedly went to 3 to 8 NGOs that Napoles runs either directly or through dummies.
The Napoles NGOs got a total of P1.23 billion from the 3 senators alone over the years that were audited.
Since COA chair Grace Pulido-Tan said P2.1 billion of audited funds went to 10 NGOs “presently linked” to Napoles, this means more than half of that amount came from just Revilla’s, Enrile’s, and Estrada’s allocations.
The amount also represents one-fifth of the total P6.16 billion that COA said were released to dubious NGOs.
Whistleblower Benhur Luy and other former Napoles employees have claimed that lawmakers endorse Napoles’ bogus NGOs to implementing agencies as recipents of their PDAF. In exchange, they alleged, lawmakers got commissions from Napoles, who in turn put the public funds to her personal bank accounts.
COA released on Friday, August 16, its report on the special audit it conducted on fund releases by senators and congressmen, including the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
The audit covered P32.6 billion of VILP (Various Infrastructure Including Local Projects) and P8 billion of the PDAF allocated by the budget department to implementing agencies under the lawmakers’ names.
Enrile has denied knowing Napoles at all, while Revilla and Estrada have admitted meeting Napoles in parties but claimed that the association ended there.
“I was introduced once or twice to Ms Napoles, and have seen her occasionally in certain social gatherings. Aside from the customary ‘hi’s and hello’s,’ we had no other interaction with each other,” Revilla said.
Revilla issued that statement following a Rappler report that his and Napoles’ children are business partners.
Estrada, for his part, admitted knowing Napoles, saying she was introduced to him by a friend. He did not elaborate.
Napoles herself has denied knowing Revilla and Estrada on a personal level. She told Malou Mangahas of “Investigative Documentaries” that she was closer to Estrada’s wife, Precy Vitug.
In that same interview, Napoles referred to photos published by Rappler showing her partying with Revilla and Estrada.
Napoles said she only had her photos taken with the two senators since they are popular actors as well. She said she was only invited to the birthday party by one of Estrada’s children.
The COA special report showed Revilla’s pork barrel was divided between 5 NGOs with links to Napoles, with releases totaling P422.99 million.
A total of P407.39 million in Enrile’s PDAF was released to 8 Napoles NGOs.
Estrada’s funds totalling P396.25 million went to 3 NGOs identified with Napoles.
Three NGOs were common recipients of the 3 senators:
These 3 NGOs alone got a total of P857.83 million, or 70%, of the 3 senators’ PDAF releases that went to Napoles NGOs.
This was corroborated by the COA special report, which uncovered other disturbing findings.
Shanty as office
COA investigation confirmed the claim of whistleblowers that Napoles used employees and their relatives as dummy incorporators of NGOs and signatories to transactions involving government dealings.
For instance, the SDPFFI’s office, during inspection of its registered address in South City Homes, Biñan, Laguna, turned out to be a garage unit. The COA team that visited the address in January 2011 was enteretained by Benhur Luy, who was then still under the employ of Napoles.
“There were no staff, document, and office equipment, except for the one desktop and one laptop computer,” the COA team said.
MAMFI, on the other hand, was found to be a residential unit of its supposed president, Marina Sula.
The address of another Napoles-linked NGO, Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc that got P96.8 million from Enrile’s PDAF showed “it was just a shanty occupied by the mother of one of the incorporators.”
Below is a list of all Napoles-linked NGOs that COA found to be among 82 that misused or failed to liquidate government releases: