Rappler Newscast | September 12, 2013


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Whistleblower Luy tells a tale of collusion with lawmakers. How did Napoles build her empire? Nur Misuari disowns the Zamboanga siege.

Today on Rappler.

  • Pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy tells a tale of collusion with lawmakers to siphon development funds.
  • How did Napoles build her empire using fake NGOs and government connections?
  • Nur Misuari disowns the Zamboanga siege.


At least 80 armed followers of Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari surrender Thursday evening to police troops.
One of the hostages they brought with them is Catholic priest Fr Michael Ufana, who was held hostage Tuesday in Barangay Sta Catalina.
The number of surrenderees is about half the estimated 200 MNLF troops holed out in the coastal outskirts of Zamboanaga City.
They’re all from Basilan.
Police intelligence sources on the ground tell Rappler they surrendered to a team of the Philippine National Police and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission and the Presidential Anti-Crime Task Force.
According to the same sources “A certain member of MNLF under commander Ismael with white flag reached our position and negotiated their surrender. About 80 of them are armed and one is wounded.”
The sources said Fr Ufana is now in police custody.
The leader of the MNLF surrenderees is Commander George Ismael, father in-law of a former town mayor in Basilan.
Rappler learned Thursday morning that one of those who initiated talks for their surrender is Gov Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, who is also from Basilan.

In a surprise appearance, pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy faces the Senate, with details of the corruption and collusion between Janet Napoles and lawmakers.
Ayee Macaraig reports.

LEILA DE LIMA, JUSTICE SECRETARY: I am inclined to reconsider my initial stance. Maybe it is in the public interest to hear the representative voice of whistleblowers.

The sudden appearance of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy stuns the Senate gallery.
But what’s more stunning are his tales of corruption.
He says his cousin, Janet Napoles, the alleged queen of the pork barrel scam, perfected her system through her extensive network of government contacts.
Luy says as Napoles’ trusted aide, he saw how the release of development funds was rigged from the beginning.

BENHUR LUY, PRINCIPAL WHISTLEBLOWER: So ang nangyayari po, okay, bibilhin ni Ms. Napoles ang PDAF or sometimes, mga lawmakers tatawag sa kanya. Magsasubmit na kami ng listing ano ang gusto mong gawin? Sabi niya, ‘Sige sir tatawag muna ako ng agencies kung saan pwede.’ (Ms. Napoles would talk with the lawmakers and come up with an agreement, let’s say 50%. Sometimes lawmakers would call her and say, “We’re going to submit listings. What would you like to do?” She would say, “Alright. Let me call the agencies we can use.”)

Next, Napoles’ employees prepare draft endorsement letters they send to the lawmakers’ chiefs of staff.
These are eventually sent to the Department of Budget and Management, which issues the order for the fund release.  
At this point, Luy says Napoles begins issuing the so-called rebates.

BENHUR LUY, PRINCIPAL WHISTLEBLOWER: Tatawag kami sa DBM kasi may contact po si Ms Napoles sa DBM. After nun, dahil may receiving copy na. magbabayad na po si Ms Napoles sa kausap niya. Katulad ng nabanggit ko kanina. Halimbawa ang usapan 10M, 50%, so that’s 5M and them, Ang kalakaran, 50% upon listing and then another 50% upon SARO. Magpapalabas na po si Ms Napoles ng pera. Liquid po si Ms Napoles, marami siyang pera, may project pa siya sa DAR. (We call up DBM because Ms Napoles has contacts in DBM. After that, Ms Napoles pays her contacts. The standard is, 50% upon listing and another 50% upon SARO. Ms Napoles will release the money. Ms Napoles has a lot of money, she even has projects in DAR.)

Luy says Napoles’ company secures the funds after preparing documents for the memorandum of agreement and lawmakers endorse the project to the implementing agencies.
All parties have a cut in the deal: 50% for the lawmakers, 10% for the implementing agencies and 40% for Napoles.
Many of the projects are purely bogus.
Luy says lawmakers and their chiefs of staff actively coordinate with Napoles’ employees, frequenting their office to get cash.
There were times Luy visited a certain senator at the Senate.

ALLAN CAYETANO, SENATOR: Anong floor ang pinuntahan mo? Di mo pwede sabihin ang pangalan, palayaw? Initial? (What floor did you go to? You can’t tell us the name? Nickname? Initials?)

LUY: Sexy. Kasi mataba daw tapos biglang pumayat kaya sexy ang tawag. (‘Sexy’ is a man. He used to be fat and he suddenly got thinner, so that’s why he’s called ‘sexy.’)

Luy says when the NGOs get the money, employees withdraw it in cold cash.

LUY: Kasi siympre di kasya sa kanyang vault. May mga bag nilalagay namin sa bed niya tapos sometimes nasa bathtub. Dun na namin pinapatong-patong. Nasa bag siya. (We put the cash in bags. The money is in her bath tub, then we put it in bags.)

Senators ask Luy about Napoles’ media statements pointing to another person as the brains in the scam.

LUY: Siya ang mastermind kasi siya ang boss ko. ([Napoles] is the mastermind because she is my boss.)
While Luy refused to name names, De Lima says the lawmakers will soon be known when the Justice Department files the first batch of cases.

This early, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman TG Guingona says the lawmakers are liable for plunder.

AYEE MACARAIG, REPORTING: With Luy’s surprise testimony, senators say they’ve completed the picture on how the pork barrel came from the lawmakers and returned to their pockets. With the Senate possibly wrapping up its probe, the controversy shifts from the court of public opinion to the longer and harder battle in court. Ayee Macaraig, Rappler. 

Over the course of 10 years, Napoles built up her wealth and government connections, a network spanning lawmakers, Cabinet Secretaries and even Chiefs of Staff.
Natashya Gutierrez reports.

As the multi-million pork barrel scam got bigger and bigger, life got better and better for mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
Her former employee turned primary whistleblower Benhur Luy tells the Senate Napoles connived with lawmakers to channel their pork barrel to her bogus non-governmental organizations in exchange they got hefty kickbacks.
Luy said when he first worked for Napoles in 2002, her family was already living in high-end Ayala Alabang village and owned expensive cars.

BENHUR LUY, WHISTLEBLOWER: Nung ano, ano ba talagang negosyo nitong ni Madame. Nung dati, naaalala ko pa po, nagbebenta pa kami nung anak niya, sinasamahan ko pa sila ng mga ano, mga ballpen. (I wondered, ‘What is her business?’ Before then, I didn’t know about anything, I’d even go with her son to sell ballpens. We the family  were close.)

As a government contractor, Luy says Napoles has contacts in all branches of government, including the budget department, the Commission on Audit, the Ombudsman and implementing agencies.

ALAN PETER CAYETANO, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: Kasi nabasa namin sa dyaryo galante magregalo. (We read in the newspapers that she’s a generous gift giver.)

LUY: Sa mga kausap niya. (To the people she’s in business with.)

CAYETANO: Parang part of doing business. ( It’s part of doing business.)

LUY: Pero kaming mga empleyado, hindi. (But to us employees, she’s not generous.)

CAYETANO: Mga mamahalin na bags. (Like, expensive bags.)

LUY: Yes.

CAYETANO: Sinong bumibil nun? (Who buys those gifts?)

LUY: Siya mismo. (She does.)

Lawmakers even went to Napoles’ office in Discovery Suites in Pasig to peddle their PDAF for rebates.
By late 2006, business was so good the Napoleses started acquiring property.
She also expanded her scheme to tap into other government funds outside pork.

NATASHYA GUTIERREZ, REPORTING: While Napoles made the most from lawmakers’ pork barrel, it was in 2009 that she hit the jackpot. That year, Napoles received P900 million from the Malampaya Fund through the Department of Agrarian Reform.

Luy said Napoles had a total of 20 NGOs.
8 dealt with PDAF, while 12 targeted Malampaya.
The Malampaya transaction was one of her last major deals.
By 2010, the goose that laid the golden egg was under threat.
Under the Aquino administration, the DBM tightened its regulations.

LUY: Naghigpit po. Kasi may mga requirements po na hinihingi ang mga implementing agencies na hirap din po kami maka-secure. (It became tighter because the implementing agencies prescribed requirements that were hard for us to secure.) Pagdating po sa SEC ang dami rin pong hinihingi ng SEC bago po sila mag-issue ng certificate of good standing. (When it came to SEC, it also prescribed many requirements before they would issue a certificate of good standing.)

RALPH RECTO, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: Meron pa rin po bang NABCOR ngayon? (Does NABCOR still exist now?)

LUY: Di ko po alam. (I don’t know.)

RECTO: Pero wala ka ng transaction na alam? (But you don’t know of any further transactions?)

LUY: Wala na po, basta nag LGUs na po kami. (No, I don’t. We moved on to LGUs.)

In 2011, COA started probing anomalies in Napoles’ transactions.
Employees began talking among themselves, afraid.

LUY: Di ko rin alam kung saan ako magsusumbong, kasi ano ba ako, syempre isang simpleng tao lang tapos ang magiging kabangga ko si Madame, tapos very influential pa. (We didn’t know who to tell. I’m just a simple person and the person I’m going against is Madame, she’s very influential. Sabi ko, bahala na kung ano mangyayari, but I have to tell everything. Para sa taong-bayan, gagawin ko yun. (We’ll see what happens  but I have to tell everything. For the country, I will do it.)

Napoles’ dramatic rags to riches story may reach its climax next week.
The National Bureau of Investigation  NBI  is now preparing to file plunder charges against Napoles and lawmakers involved in the scam.
Connections in powerful places and generous gift giving: this was the Napoles formula — the foundation upon which her wealth was built.
With just one powerful tell-all — her decade’s work, comes crashing down.
Natashya Gutierrez, Rappler, Manila.

The House of Representatives will remove lawmakers’ lump sum discretionary funds from the proposed 2014 budget and distribute the amount to national agencies.
On Wednesday, lawmakers agree to realign their P25.2-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF to 6 line agencies.
The public works department gets the biggest amount: P8.82 billion.
It is the implementing agency for “hard projects” like building roads and bridges.
Lawmakers earlier justified the retention of discretion over the PDAF by citing the scholars and indigent patients they had to support.
But in the realigned PDAF, the smallest amounts go to the education and health departments.
The Commission on Higher Education gets only 10% or P2.52 billion and the Department of Education gets 5% or P1.26 billion.
15% of the pork barrel will go to the health department.
House appropriations committee chair Isidro Ungab says lawmakers can still “recommend” where the funds can be spent, but they cannot command implementing agencies.
It is up to the agency to decide whether or not to integrate a lawmaker’s proposed project in their budget.

Mortars and sniper fire accompany heavy fighting in Zamboanga City Thursday, on day 4 of the standoff between government troops and followers of Moro National Liberation front founder Nur Misuari.
Rebels fire at least 8 mortar rounds at a government-held area.
They also burn at least 20 houses in the coastal barangays they occupy, including Barangay Santa Catalina.
Military intelligence shows about 200 MNLF members took 180 hostages from residential villages in the city and use villagers roped together as human shields.
As of Thursday morning, the siege leaves 12 people dead, displaces more than 13,000 people, and shuts down the city.
Misuari’s followers are believed to be hiding among at least 80 residents in the coastal villages.
They launch the siege in a bid to derail peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a breakaway group of the MNLF.

MNLF founder Nur Misuari distances himself from the ongoing siege initiated by his followers in Zamboanga City.
In a press conference, Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco says she spoke to Misuari over the phone Wednesday night.
Climaco says Misuari “disowned the actions of Habier Malik,” one of the MNLF commanders leading the attack.
But the government stands by its assertion the Misuari faction of the MNLF is behind the siege.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles earlier said Malik is a known Misuari loyalist.
Misuari has not issued any statement to the public since the standoff started four days ago.

As the Zamboanga siege enters its fourth day, three soldiers are wounded in Basilan as government troops trade gunfire with the combined forces of the MNLF and the Abu Sayyaf Group or ASG.
Army spokesman Capt Jefferson Somera says a two-hour firefight erupts in Lamitan, Basilan Thursday morning.
Somera says the troops fought 150 rebel forces in Lamitan’s Barangay Colonia.
The Philippine National Police adds MNLF members are among the forces in Basilan.

For the first time in 16 years, water regulator Metropolitan Manila Sewerage System or MWSS cuts water rates.
The announcement affects the rates of its east zone concessionaire Manila Water Corp and west zone concessionaire Maynilad.
The new rates will be effective October 2013.
The rates of Manila Water Corp will go down by P1.45 per cubic meter.
Maynilad’s rates will go down by P1.29 per cubic meter. 

Veteran lawyer and former Solicitor General Frank Chavez passed away Wednesday night, at the Medical City in Pasig. He was 66.
Chavez died after a stroke.
He suffered from lymphoma.
Chavez was solicitor general under the Cory Aquino administration.
He also founded the Brotherhood of Nationalistic, Involved and Free Attorneys to Combat Injustice and Oppression under the Marcos regime representing various human rights victims in pro bono cases.
Chavez filed numerous cases against various public officials, the latest being a plunder case against former President Gloria Arroyo.

UN Security Council envoys from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States hold talks on the Syrian chemical weapons crisis, but reach no agreement.
Quoting from a Russian TV interview, AFP reports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad confirms Syria will hand over its chemical weapons — a plan proposed by Russia.
A meeting Thursday between US State Secretary John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva will determine whether the divided council can reach an accord.
Kerry and Lavrov will discuss the plan to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international supervision and prevent a threatened US military strike.

The United States on Wednesday marks the 12th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, with memorial ceremonies in New York and Washington.
In New York, relatives of the 9/11 victims gather at Ground Zero to remember the dead.
The ceremony begins with a moment of silence at 8:46 am, when the first hijacked plane smashed into the World Trade Center.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks on New York, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
President Barack Obama also delivers a speech at the Pentagon.

BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: We pray for the memory of all those taken from us — nearly 3,000 innocent souls. Our hearts still ache for the futures snatched away, the lives that might have been…Today we remember not only those who died that September day. We pay solemn tribute to more than 6,700 patriots who have given their full measure since — military and civilians. We see their legacy in the friendships they forged, the attacks they prevented, the innocent lives they saved and in their comrades in Afghanistan who are completing the mission and who by the end of next year will have helped to end this war.

12 years after 9/11, the ties that bind social networks believed to be involved in terrorist activities are also behind the bombings in Mindanao.
This global social movement is using the black flag as a rallying symbol for their cause.
The flag is a symbol of unity that taps into a secret motivation of al-Qaeda.
FBI agent Ali Soufan says the black flag heralds the apocalypse that will bring about the triumph of Islam.
The ideology behind the movement is moving through social networks and recruiting members bottom up.
Khilafah Islamiyah — a group that has sprung from the same social network — is said to be headed by Reneer Lou “Ren-ren” Dongon, who has familial ties with the founder of the Abu Sayyaf, Khaddafy Janjalani, and the Jemaah Islamiya. 

At number 6, the United Nations says the number of migrants around the world rises above 230 million in 2013.
More than half of migrants are living in 10 countries, with the United States the leading host nation.
The US is host to 13 million people from Mexico, 2.2 million from China, 2.1 million from India and two million from the Philippines.

At number 8, Close to one-fourth of men surveyed in a UN report on violence against women in Asia admit to raping a woman at least once.
One in 10 men says he raped a woman not his partner.
Nearly three-fourths of those who committed rape say they did so because of a sense of “sexual entitlement.”
A second most common reason is entertainment or for fun, followed by the desire to punish.

And at number 10, The Guardian reports a woman pretending to be part of a team handling wedding gifts is convicted in Ghana.
Emelia Appiah stole cash and gifts from a newly wed couple by impersonating a member of the team in charge of the gift table.
Church clerks gave her access to envelopes that contained 5,000 pounds — about $7,900 or over P345,000.
The Guardian reports cash gifts and large guest lists are common in Ghana, making them attractive targets for thieves.

Twenty and ten pound notes laid out in a fan shape Image from Shutterstock

– Rappler.com

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