Napoles ‘welcome’ streamers puzzle Candaba folk

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VIP WELCOME Streamers in Candaba, Pampanga, welcome Janet (“Madame Jenny”) Lim-Napoles and family to the oath-taking of Mayor Rene E. Maglanque on June 30, (they did not show up.) The streamers were hastily taken down Friday afternoon after news broke out that Napoles is being investigated by the NBI for suspected multibillion fraud in the use of congressional pork barrel funds for scores of ghost projects. E.I. REYMOND T. OREJAS/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Streamers welcoming “Jenny, Jimmy, James Lim Napoles” lined the road leading to the center of Candaba town on Friday, some two weeks after members of the Napoles family were scheduled to grace the June 30 oath-taking of Mayor Rene Maglanque.

The three did not turn up for the occasion, but the streamers sparked speculations here after the Inquirer carried a story on Friday about a government investigation of Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles, who was implicated in an alleged P10-billion scam involving ghost projects financed by congressional pork barrel funds.

“Were they the same people in the Inquirer story?” asked a village official, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Streamers removed

Local leaders said the question went unanswered as the mayor was not available for interview.  He was reportedly attending an agricultural summit and could not take calls.

The streamers were removed at 4 p.m. on Friday after copies of the INQUIRER had circulated around town. But local officials here would not say if Maglanque had ordered the pullout.

The mayor’s staff asked the INQUIRER to send its queries through a text message, but as of late Friday, Maglanque had yet to reply to the questions.

In 2005, “jueteng” (illegal numbers game) whistle-blower Sandra Cam named the Candaba mayor as “one of the bagmen” of former Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo. The mayor denied Cam’s allegations.

As then undersecretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications, Maglanque reportedly failed a lifestyle check.

In 2012, the INQUIRER learned that Maglanque had allegedly tried to bribe a leader of a fishermen’s group in Masantol town in an attempt to silence the group about an irregularity involving the distribution of farm equipment.

Some 2,500 fishermen in Masantol were reported to have received farming tools and seeds worth P89.2 million from the Department of Agrarian Reform. The supposed beneficiaries, however, claimed that their signatures had been forged and that they did not receive anything from the DAR or its listed partner, the Kaudpanan para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (KMFI).

KMFI is one of the fake NGOs Napoles reportedly set up.

John Raymund de Asis, president and chair of KMFI, did not answer calls and text messages seeking his group’s side of the issue.

Maglanque, one source claimed, had asked a leader of the Masantol fishermen to keep mum on the issue in exchange for P1 million. The amount was rejected.

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