PDAF kickbacks: Napoles had favorites

Aries C. Rufo

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Apart from showing details about pork barrel fund transactions, the ledger of whistleblower Benhur Luy illustrates how Janet Napoles’ pork barrel network swelled through the years

File photos by EPA/Francis Malasig

MANILA, Philippines – One lawmaker “exchanged” his pork barrel amounting to P6.5 million for a mere P50,000. Another received P30 million in cold cash from Janet Lim Napoles herself a few months before the national elections in 2010. A third one, through his representative, got more than P28 million two months before the polls.

These, among others, were just among the damning revelations contained in the ledger that pork barrel whistle blower Benhur Luy gave to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, and which had been submitted to the Ombudsman. The ledger, covering the years 2004 to 2010, details amounts that legislators got in exchange for their pork barrel.

If the ledger is to be believed, former Benguet Rep Samuel Dangwa only got P50,000 as kickback for his P6.5 million pork barrel that he allocated to the National Agricultural and Fishery Council in 2004.

The money — given in two tranches on October 4 and Oct 6, 2004 — was reported as received by his staff Carlos Lozada. It was the lowest recorded amount of commission received by a lawmaker under Napoles’ payroll.

Dangwa and Napoles would continue to transact business in the next 6 years, a partnership that would reap him P26.77 million in total commissions. In 2010, the partnership ended after Dangwa served out his term in Congress.

On the other hand, Sen Jinggoy Estrada supposedly received P30 million from Napoles herself on Feb 3, 2010, or 14 days before his birthday. The ledger did not indicate if it was a commission for his pork barrel, although the entry stated that the money was sourced from the NGO Saganang Buhay’s account at the Metro Bank Magdalena branch in Binondo, Manila.

Through fund transfers to a certain Juan Ng, Estrada received another P20 million and another P6 million in cash before the May 10 national elections in 2010. About 8 days after the elections, Napoles supposedly gave an additional P15 million to Estrada.

A check with Estrada’s Statement of Election Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) for the May 2010 polls showed that a certain Johnny Ng donated P3 million to his campaign. Estrada would place second overall in the Senate race, behind Sen Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.

All in all, in transactions that spanned 8 years, 2004 to 2012, Estrada got a total of P183,793,750 based on the ledger alone. The amount does not include supposed pay-offs that were not recorded by Luy.

Jinggoy speaks

Asked if he knew “Juan Ng” or “Johnny Ng,” Estrada told Rappler, “I know him. He’s a friend. They’re the same person.”

On Ng being named in Luy’s ledger, he said, “Ano yan, parang ledger ni Chavit? I have no idea what’s on the list. I haven’t seen it. I do not know if Ng and Napoles have business with each other.” (What’s that, like Chavit [Singson’s] ledger?)

He refused to further comment on the ledger and Luy’s entries in it, saying, “I am tired of reading news, answering questions on pork barrel. I will just fight it out in court if they will file it in the Sandiganbayan.”

Revilla’s pork

Estrada’s good friend, Revilla, received P28,512,500 in cash through his chief political officer Richard Cambe on March 17, 2010, or two months before the elections. The money was sourced from the account of one of Napoles’ NGOs, Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc, which had been a recipient of Revilla’s pork barrel. A special audit of pork barrel from 2007 to 2009 showed Revilla pouring P118.34 million to this NGO alone.

A check with Revilla’s SOCE for the May 2010 polls showed he did not receive any contributions from other individuals. He spent a total of P77 million for his campaign.

Luy’s ledger alone showed Revilla got a total of P224,512,500 in rebates for his pork barrel, involving transactions from 2006-2010.

Along with former Senate president Enrile, Revilla and Estrada are facing plunder complaints before the Ombudsman for the alleged misuse of their pork barrel fund. Former Reps Rodolfo Plaza (Agusan del Sur), Constantino Jaraula (Cagayan de Oro City) and Dangwa, along with their staff, are also included in the initial batch of respondents charged by the Department of Justice.

Pandora’s box

Hired by Napoles to simplify the audit of her transactions, Luy kept tab of the legislators’ rebates from 2004 to 2012. The simple ledger is a goldmine of secrets that details the relationship between Napoles and various legislators.

Apart from showing how much each legislator got, for which pork barrel allocation, and when it was transacted, the ledger illustrates how Napoles’ pork barrel racket grew and how her network swelled through the years.

From being a relatively small-time player in 2004, Napoles went full swing with her operations in 2005. It continued all the way to 2010.

From a base of 20 lawmakers from the House and the Senate in 2004, Napoles’ network expanded to 38 the next year. In the Lower House, 3 lawmakers — former Rep Manuel Ortega (Abono party list)), Edgar Valdez (APEC party list), and the late Erwin Chiongbian (Sarangani), got the highest commissions from P11 million to P16 million. Ortega is now governor of La Union. (READ: Rival NGOs beat Napoles in House ‘pork barrel’)

In 2006, Napoles’ network shrank to 24 and the exchange of commissions tapered off a bit. An external factor that could have contributed to this was the Senate probe on the anomalous P724-million fertilizer fund that dragged Napoles’ name.

Luy, in his testimony at the Senate, said 3 Napoles NGOs had to “lie low” after they got “burned” in the fertilizer scam. But it was only a temporary setback.

Years 2007-2008

In 2007, Napoles returned with a vengeance, distributing commissions from P5 million to P30 million. In the Senate, Revilla got the biggest rebate at P61 million, followed by Enrile with P27,112,500, and Estrada with P16,250,000.

In the House, Rep Rizalina Leachon-Lanete set the pace with P34,265,000 in rebates that year. Based on Luy’s notes, the money was received by her staff, Jose Sumalpong.

In 2008, Napoles limited her operation to a core group of lawmakers in the House even as she shifted heavily her rebates to senators Revilla, Enrile and Estrada. That year, Revilla got a total of P80 million in rebates; Enrile got P62.55 million, while Estrada received P51.25 million.

P20 million in office vault

The ledger also revealed that Napoles had available a huge amount of cash anytime for immediate transactions.  Luy, in his testimony, said that advance payments to legislators were given to lawmakers shortly after a deal was closed. Payoffs were made once the pork barrel funds were credited and withdrawn from the bank accounts of NGOs.

From 2004 to 2008, at any given time, the JLN office vault had at least P20 million in cold cash to facilitate payments.

One entry showed P20 million being received by Ruby Tuason, a supposed conduit of  Enrile. The money was sourced from the office vault. The money represented partial payment to a supposed P100-million PDAF channeled by Enrile to some of Napoles’ dummy NGOs.

More for practical purposes, the cash payments to lawmakers was obviously meant as a security measure as they left no verifiable paper trail — except for the cash voucher that Luy kept for record purposes.

However, some lawmakers apparently became complacent that they started receiving payments through fund transfers.

Lanete and Valdez, for instance, started getting some of their rebates through bank fund transfers as early as 2007.

For some reason, by 2009, Napoles resorted to withdrawing money from the bank accounts of her dubious NGOs instead of sourcing it from the office vault. The withdrawals, faithfully recorded by Luy, may prove fatal to her claim that she had nothing to do with the pork barrel scam. – Rappler.com

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