Top fashion designer backs whistle-blower

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“Benhur is telling the truth.”

A top fashion designer, Eddie Baddeo, came forward to support the allegations made by Benhur K. Luy against Janet Lim-Napoles of JLN Corp. involving a P10-billion scam using the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, of senators and congressmen.

Luy is formerly Napoles’ technical assistant in JLN, in which Napoles is president and CEO.

Baddeo did not solicit the interview. A post on his Facebook Timeline on July 12 got the interest of this reporter. The status from Baddeo’s Facebook account states: “Poetic justice! Digital Karma. Thank you, Lord! So happy with the front page headline of Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper this morning.”

“Yes, every allegation against her is true, she’s engaged in ghost deliveries and she claims to pay senators, congressmen and mayors. Benhur is telling the truth!” Baddeo said in an interview with the Inquirer.

The designer calls Napoles “Tita Jen,” a client of his who befriended him and, through him, purportedly used his wealth of connections.

“I had no idea what she was up to. I admit that I was financially unstable at that time so I thought, why not, not knowing the project involved ghost implementations and deliveries,” the designer said.

Two mayors

She only stopped when two of the mayors he approached for the project told him the project involved ghost deliveries.

“I confronted her about it and she got mad and told me that I have no right to ask since she was just trying to help me financially,” the designer recalled.

The Inquirer sent text messages and made repeated calls to Napoles to get her side about Baddeo’s allegations, but the messages were not answered and the calls were not returned.

Documented in letters

Not only did Baddeo agree to an interview, he also produced documents that may serve as a paper trail in the probe being conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation. These documents included 45 letters from local mayors addressed to the then Secretary of Agriculture, Arthur C. Yap.

The letters were all dated November and December 2006 with almost exactly the same contents, requesting Yap’s “valuable support to realize their aim of increasing their crop harvest.”

The letters said the amount of P5 million was requested by the mayors and that it would be used for the municipality’s or the city’s Agricultural Enhancement Program, supposedly for distribution to “deserving farmers.”

The documents were signed by mayors from various areas, including Plaridel and San Miguel in Bulacan; Angeles City in Pampanga; Abucay, Orani, Hermosa, Mariveles, Morong, Samal and Balanga Cty in Bataan; Lumban in Laguna; and Jaen, Peñaranda, San Leonardo and Sto. Domingo in Nueva Ecija.

Mayors from several towns in Isabela, Batangas, Tarlac, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Iloilo and Davao Oriental were among those who signed similar requests to Secretary Yap.

Forwarded to JLN

The requests were then forwarded to the office of JLN Corp. on the 25th floor of Discovery Suites in Ortigas. All the papers were received and signed by the secretary of Napoles, whom the designer identified only as “Neil.”

“She’s Filipino-Chinese but she died in 2008 or January of 2009, I am not sure, but it was Benhur who took over the documents we forwarded to Tita Jen’s office,” Baddeo said. “Benhur knows me and he knew that I questioned Tita Jen about the warning I received from two mayors.”

For ‘remembrance’ only

The two mayors who warned the designer that what they signed could involve “ghost deliveries,” however, did not withdraw their requests made in 2006.

Baddeo kept copies of those papers purportedly for “remembrance” purposes only. He said he had no plans of going after Napoles because he knew how high her connections were.

He also said he saw some of her connections come and report to Napoles’ office and that he heard some speaking with Napoles on the phone.

There was an instance, Baddeo said, when a senator called Napoles. After speaking with that senator, Napoles—according to the designer—said in Filipino, “I just gave money, now they’re asking again!”

Money for solon

In another instance, Baddeo said he saw a member of the House of Representatives from a congressional district in Luzon take money placed inside a trolley bag. The House member even asked Napoles why the designer was there because the lawmaker knew the designer, who had designed clothes for the lawmaker in the past.

In those instances that Baddeo claimed to have heard or seen the curious goings on, he was fitting Napoles for a new dress or gown.

“She (Napoles) used me and who knows how many more persons like me with connections she used,” Baddeo said. “I just hope they really dig deep in their investigation and she will be exposed for who she truly is.”

Is he willing to help the NBI in its investigation?

“My answer is corny but for the country, why not?” Baddeo said. “I kept these documents as remembrance of how she used me and my connections. I just hope that justice will really be served because it involves the people’s money.”

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