The daughter of the woman at the center of a P10-billion congressional pork barrel scandal could actually be sitting in Congress next week.
An internal conflict roiling the OFW Family Club (OFWFC) party-list group could benefit
Jo Christine Napoles, the eldest of four children of Janet Lim-Napoles, president and CEO of JLN Corp., the company allegedly behind the fraudulent use of legislators’ pork barrel funds for ghost projects.
JLN Corp. was in fact originally named Jo-Chris Trading after the Napoles eldest daughter.
The younger Napoles is the OFWFC president for Metro Manila and potential third nominee of the party-list group, an organization that provides assistance to distressed overseas Filipino workers which won two seats in the party-list elections last May.
If a petition to invalidate the proclamation of the group’s second nominee, sometime actor Johnny Revilla, succeeds, it will put Napoles in the 16th Congress.
The prospect alarms the principal whistle-blower of the P10-billion scam, who said that Jo Christine is very much involved in JLN’s operations as the company’s chief finance officer.
“She would have all the access and the power once she gets into the House of Representatives,” he said.
Ineligible as US citizen
The question of who should occupy the OFWFC’s second House seat arose after a longtime member, Eduardo Morales, filed a petition seeking to invalidate the proclamation of the group’s second nominee, Revilla.
In a July 8 petition, Morales said Revilla was “ineligible for the position” allegedly because “he is not a natural-born Filipino citizen as required by the Constitution.”
He also asked the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal to declare the OFWFC’s second seat “vacant” and allow the third nominee to take Revilla’s place.
The disqualification of Revilla would have benefited a son of former Ambassador Roy Señeres Sr., the founder and president of the OFWFC who is now a House member, being the group’s first nominee.
3rd nominee declines
However, Señeres’ son and namesake, the OFWFC’s third nominee, “declined to replace Johnny Revilla to avoid any criticism about political dynasticism,” according to the group’s May 27 resolution that expelled Revilla from the party.
“It won’t look good if he would have a junior and senior prom in Congress,” the older Señeres said on Saturday.
In line to replace the younger Señeres as the OFWFC’s third nominee is Jo Christine Napoles, the group’s president for Metro Manila.
‘Trial by publicity’
Reached by phone, Revilla on Saturday said he was a victim of “trial by publicity” and was still “weighing my options.”
“I renounced my American citizenship prior to [the filing of] our certificate of candidacy,” he later said in a text message. He said he was born at UST Hospital to parents Jose Revilla (the late actor Armando Goyena) and Paquita Roces.
In his petition, Morales argued that Revilla remains a US citizen, alleging that he “never took an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, much less executed a personal and sworn renunciation thereof, which makes him ineligible for the position.”
“[Revilla] continuously processes the status of being an American citizen since in the first place, he never expressly renounced his foreign citizenship,” Morales said.
Attached to the Morales petition was a copy of Revilla’s United States “passport.” Morales said it was “an ostensible proof that respondent never relinquished his foreign citizenship.”
Also “manifestly indicated” in Revilla’s travel information was that he “remains to be a US citizen,” he said.
In the OFWFC resolution, the Señeres group said it had “obtained a document from the Bureau of Immigration which shows that starting 2002 up to 2009, Revilla was using a US passport in his travels overseas.”
The group said it “cannot be a party to a culpable violation of the Constitution which prohibits a foreigner to run for public office in the Philippines.”
The OFWFC had other issues besides citizenship against Revilla. It said he “did not actively participate in the campaign and was absent during [the] majority of the important meetings of the national executive committee.”
Señeres said he had been informed of Revilla’s dual citizenship in the middle of the campaign and had told the latter to sort out the matter. But Revilla never got back to him and showed up only after the group won the two House seats, he said.
“In all honesty, I really didn’t know that he was a dual citizen,” he said.