Napoles children slam ‘polluted’ state witnesses

Buena Bernal

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Napoles children slam ‘polluted’ state witnesses
Jo Christine and James Christopher Napoles point fingers at state witnesses whose testimonies they say fall short of proving their participation in the scam

MANILA, Philippines – Children of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles who are indicted for graft deny any involvement in the illegal diversion of public funds to fake non-governmental organizations.

Instead, Jo Christine and James Christopher Napoles pointed fingers at state witnesses whose testimonies they say fall short of proving their participation in the scam.

“As a matter of course, and as admitted by (state witnesses) Benhur Luy, Merlina Suñas, and Marlina Sula, they are the perpetrators of the alleged crimes and hope to pin their wrongdoing on accused,” read their 47-page motion for judicial determination of probable cause before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

Their motion, filed on Monday, June 16, included an urgent plea to defer the issuance of arrest warrants and suspend proceedings against them.

“The whistleblowers, in their numerous testimonies, apparently seek to escape liability by pointing blame on the accused. They admitted forming the questioned NGOs, forging signatures and documents, and yet, they managed to escape criminal prosecution by turning state witness,” their motion read.

They added that the allegations hurled against them are “inexistent and unsupported by any evidence other than the testimonies which came from very polluted sources.”

Because of their lifestyle, Napoles’ children have been linked to the biggest corruption scandal in the country in recent years. Napoles’ youngest daughter Jeane, who lives abroad, was in her early 20s when she bought a luxurious, Los Angeles apartment in a building where Hollywood celebrities and public figures live. She eventually sold the property. ( READ: Napoles daughter owns P80M LA property)

The alleged pork scam mastermind, who supposedly controlled fake NGOs that served on paper as beneficiaries of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), earlier asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to spare her children from prosecution.

Napoles’ children said their relationship with their mother “should not be made the basis in concluding that they participated in the alleged scam.”

Family corporation

In their motion, the Napoles siblings said the Ombudsman erred in its approval of their indictment. The two were indicted for graft, specifically in violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, last June 9. 

But lawyer Raji Mendoza, legal counsel for principal whistleblower Luy, said in a previous interview that the children were complicit in the offense.

“We look at them as a group. The JLN Corporation is a family-owned corporation,” he said of the corporation whose bank accounts eventually received funds from the transactions with implementing government agencies. 

“Government funds transferred to NGOs were eventually transferred to JLN and to some personal accounts of family members,” Mendoza added.

“They benefited directly, financially. Lahat ng pangangailangan nila, lahat ng luho nila. Wala naman silang maipapakitang (All their needs, all their fancies. They can’t show any) legitimate source of income to fund their lifestyle, pati na (including) capital in some of their other businesses,” he said. 

As to the allegation that the state witnesses are polluted, Mendoza said “that’s their opinion.”

“Their ill-gotten wealth also come from polluted sources,” he added.

No conspiracy 

But the lawyers of the two Napoles siblings argued that the alleged violation they are charged of involves the element of conspiracy, which they say the Ombudsman had no evidence of. 

“If there are conspirators in the instant case, evidently these are the witnesses being presented by the prosecution, and their guilt cannot be sheltered by testifying in this case,” their motion read.

“Their guilt has been established by their very own words,” it added. 

In their respective testimonies used as evidence by the DOJ in filing complaints before the Ombudsman, Luy and Suñas admitted forging signatures of beneficiaries and even politicians in the documents needed for the approval in paper of bogus projects by the Napoles-linked NGOs. 

The Napoles siblings said “they were only dragged into this case by unfounded and sweeping verbal allegations made by principal conspirators that they also participated in forging signatures of beneficiaries.”

But Mendoza said the two were involved in the liquidation process of the transactions their mother entered into. General information sheets of some of the Napoles-controlled NGOs also bare their name, he added.

Not officers of NGOs

Cited by Jo Christine and James Christopher were pieces of evidence the Ombudsman used to file graft charges against 54 individuals over the scam.

They said the complaint filed on November 18, 2013 against them using the testimonies of whistleblowers as basis did not even show their names as officers of any of the 6 NGOs involved in the implementation of livelihood projects for Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

Along with the 90-year-old Enrile, Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada faces plunder and graft charges over channeling their PDAF to dubious NGOs linked with Napoles. 

Napoles’ children also cited the March 28 joint resolution by the Ombudsman that showed names of the signatories in the memoranda of agreement (MOA) for the Napoles NGO-sponsored ghost projects.

The list of MOA signatories did not have the names of the two siblings, who claimed they are “not in the position to divert these funds for the simple reason that they have no connection whatsoever to the NGOs involved.” 

They added that their names “did not even appear in the disbursement vouchers.” They also cited the Ombudsman’s list of individuals who received checks issued by implementing agencies, which did not bear their name either.

The list of NGO officers and list of recipients of payments from agencies used by the Ombudsman as evidence showed names of state witnesses including Luy, Suñas, and Sula.

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