NBI starts probe of NGOs as conduits of PDAF funds
Janet Lim-Napoles ordered the withdrawal of P10 million from a bogus agency she had formed a day after she had an employee detained for fear that the man was going to form a company that would compete with her racket, the Inquirer was told yesterday.
The withdrawal was made on Dec. 27, 2012, by Eulogio Rodriguez of Gintong Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc., one of 20 nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that Napoles had allegedly formed as a conduit for P10 billion funneled from ghost projects funded out of lawmakers’ pork barrel and state agencies for over a decade.
The disclosure was made by Merlina P. Suñas, president of the People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc. (POPDFI), in an interview with the Inquirer at the National Bureau of Investigation, which opened Tuesday a closed-door inquiry on the role of NGOs in the scam.
Suñas said that Rodriguez was the recipient of the P10-million check drawn from the POPDFI account from a LandBank branch a week after Napoles allegedly detained Benhur Luy, her employee, who had claimed that Napoles had him abducted and held captive for three months after she suspected he would compete against her.
Luy was rescued by the NBI on March 22. The 31-year-old former assistant of Napoles in her trading company JLN then executed affidavits linking her to ghost projects involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of five senators and 23 congressmen and state agencies through 20 dummy NGOs.
Napoles has denied any wrongdoing and has accused Luy of stealing P300,000 she had tasked him to deposit in her account and making an unauthorized loan of P5 million. Charges of kidnapping against Napoles filed by Luy had been ordered dropped by a state prosecutor purportedly for lack of probable cause. The case is on appeal by the NBI.
Suñas’ revelation appeared to substantiate Luy’s claim that Napoles had him detained because of her apprehension he would go against her. A copy of the debit memo was provided the Inquirer by Suñas.
“Napoles immediately ordered the withdrawal of the money knowing that Luy had my support,” said Suñas, head of one of the 20 dummy NGOs Napoles had formed.
She had joined Luy in his accusations against Napoles. Four other whistle-blowers, all former Napoles employees, had turned against the JLN president and CEO.
When asked why the bank had approved the huge withdrawal without her signature, she said that she and Rodriguez were signers of bank checks.
“The bank already knew that either one of us can make a withdrawal,” Suñas said.
She said the withdrawal was authorized by another alleged NGO dummy president Evelyn de Leon.
Several incorporators of the 20 NGOs allegedly set up by Napoles subpoenaed by the special task force headed by Assistant Regional Director Rolando Argabioso appeared at the NBI inquiry on Tuesday.
Rodriguez was represented by lawyers Inna Zamora and Tristan Zoleta of the Kapunan, Garcia and Castillo law office who also appeared for Ronald Francisco Lim, head of the Micro Agri Business Citizens Initiative Foundation Inc.
Neither the lawyers nor the NBI agents gave details of the inquiry.
Jonathan Castillo, an incorporator of Kaupdanan sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. headed by John Raymund de Asis, also went to the NBI on Tuesday.
“I am here to clear my name and to file a complaint against those who forged my signature,” Castillo told reporters.
He also said that he felt his life was “in danger,” pointing to one instance when he was approached by a man wearing a helmet who told him he wanted to use a xerox machine but did not have any paper for copying.
Castillo also distributed to reporters a letter he had received from the Commission on Audit (COA) addressed to De Asis.
The letter came from the COA Special Audits Office, which is conducting a performance audit on the receipt and utilization of Malampaya Funds covering calendar years 2002-2011. It said the audit covered selected programs and projects implemented by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), among others.
The Inquirer earlier published a list of local government units (LGUs) that had supposedly received monies from the Malampaya Fund.
LGUs not beneficiaries
Suñas claimed she was the project coordinator of the Malampaya Fund scam for Napoles. “No money was ever received by the LGUs. All the money received by the NGOs went directly to Napoles,” Suñas said.
The COA letter also noted that liquidation documents submitted by Kaupdanan to the DAR, which were forwarded to the COA, “were not supported by any official receipts, sales invoice and delivery receipts.” The letter requested original copies of receipts of beneficiaries and their addresses.
The records of the COA showed that out of the Malampaya Funds released by the Department of Budget and Management to the DAR, P75 million went to Kaupdanan, covered by various memorandum of agreement, all dated Nov. 16, 2009, and for LGUs: P10 million each for San Quintin, San Miguel and Sual in Pangasinan, and Itogon in Benguet, and P7.5 million in San Luis, Pampanga.