Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation have fanned to the north and south of the country in search of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, who is at the center of a P10-billion controversy involving the pork barrel funds of legislators and bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) serving as conduits.
Napoles and her brother, Reynald “Jojo” Lim, are facing charges for illegally detaining Benhur Luy, the principal whistle-blower in the P10-billion racket. A regional trial court branch in Makati City has issued warrants of arrest against the siblings.
Diosdado Araos, NBI supervising agent in Dagupan City, said his office had been receiving tips from residents since last week about Napoles’ supposed location in the province.
On Friday last week, Araos said a 15-member NBI team swooped down on a resort in Bani town after he received information that one of Napoles’ cars entered a compound there. A list of Napoles’ fleet of vehicles, including their plate numbers, was published by the Inquirer.
“We were in Bani to implement the warrant of arrest. But it was negative. The place that was tipped off to us was nonexistent,” he said.
In Zamboanga City, the NBI in Western Mindanao and local police have been on alert for the possible sighting of Napoles and her brother, who may try to sneak out of the country through its backdoor.
The two have relatives and own properties in the city and in Basilan, said lawyer Rustico Vigilia, NBI regional director. “Hence, we are also seeking the support of the people since both can be arrested through citizen’s arrest.”
“Anything is possible,” Vigilia said. “They may explore all means.”
The NBI, he said, was also working closely with the security forces in seaports, airports and bus terminals.
Araos said he and his team arrived in Surip in the coastal village of Dacap Sur, Bani, at about 3 p.m. on Friday. “We scoured the area. But we did not find her. We left the place at about midnight,” he said.
On Thursday, NBI agents also reportedly went to a resort in Malasiqui town after receiving information that Napoles’ car was seen entering the place.
But Araos said he was not aware of the operation, saying agents from the NBI regional or national offices might have conducted it. “We were not the one that operated there, although we just do not know if those from the region or Manila [conducted it],” he said.
With Napoles’ clout and the many people she knew, he said it would be easy for her to hide.
“Definitely, they will help her hide. But I don’t think she will be able to slip out of the country,” Araos said.
“We will continue to look for her. Every time we receive text messages [on her supposed location], we verify,” he said.
Senior Supt. Jose Chiquito Malayo, police chief for Zamboanga City, said his men were “closely monitoring all areas.”
Chief Insp. Edwin Placio, operations officer of the Basilan police, said he had alerted forces in Maluso town, even sending “some personnel to monitor if Napoles and Lim are in the area.” Reports from Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon, and Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao