Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
The young audience at the St. Scholastica’s College auditorium found more than a grain of truth to the statements made by the whistle-blowers in the P10-billion scam using pork barrel funds when they appeared at a forum called “Truth-Telling” on Friday.
“The whistle-blowers were credible,” was the unanimous assessment of the students who attended the assembly that marked the first public appearance of Merlina Suñas, Gertrudes Luy, Annabelle Luy and Nova Dulay, witnesses to the pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by fugitive businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
The four, out of nine whistle-blowers against Napoles, were accompanied by their lawyer, Levito Baligod. They were applauded by the audience in the full-packed venue.
The Catholic institution for women extended the invitation to the four to enable its students, faculty and staff to hear the personal accounts of the whistle-blowers on how the state funds were allegedly squandered through dummy nongovernment organizations (NGOs) controlled by Napoles, chief executive officer of JLN Corp.
School officials Emmy Ching and Marianne Azcuna described the witnesses’ accounts as “very credible” from the insiders’ point of view.
The program started with a Mass for the whistle-blowers, followed by an open forum where each witness gave a short account of her knowledge of the funds scam.
Sr. Mary John Mananzan, executive director of Institute of Women’s Studies based in the all-girls school, in her welcome message said “cheating in class and doctoring liquidations in our daily practice make everyone a potential perpetrator of corruption.’’
“We have to be very vigilant because nice people, like you and me, have great potential if given the opportunity,” Mananzan said.
She said Filipinos had seen with their own eyes how fellow Filipinos had become hungry, cold and homeless “for our money just to be stolen.”
She called on the public to join the Million March to Luneta on Aug. 26 to protest the pork barrel scam.
Mananzan congratulated the whistle-blowers “for coming to the light and sacrificing, despite threats on their lives” and offered them prayers.
“It would be impossible to fight corruption without the whistle-blowers,” she said. “It needs heroic effort to always choose what is right and never mind the consequences.”
Social Watch convener Marivic Raquiza, who was among the speakers at the event, said Napoles was a product of a system.
Raquiza said the practice of providing certain amounts for projects of the legislators started in 1989 through the creation of development funds for the Visayas and Mindanao.
Suñas briefly narrated how she was hired by JLN and her role in the company of Napoles.
Reiterating her statements in her sworn affidavits, she said the lawmakers and Napoles connived to steal state funds through the Malampaya gas funds and the lawmakers’ pork barrel.
Baligod explained how the supposed illegal detention of principal whistle-blower Benhur K. Luy led the National Bureau of Investigation to the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
“They (politicians ) promised us progress and development and yet they gave us graft and corruption, they robbed us not only of our taxes, but more importantly, of a better future,” Baligod told the crowd.
“We have documents to show that legislators selected the NGOs, which is beyond their legislative duty,’’ Baligod said.
He said Napoles’ deliveries were lacking, overpriced and worst, nonexistent.
Baligod cited the Malampaya Fund of P900 million where there was zero delivery.
“Totally ghost delivery. There are supposed to be 97 towns as recipients, but all the signatures of the mayors were forged and they made it appear that they benefited from the funds,’’ Baligod said.
Luy’s mother also briefly spoke, eliciting roars from the crowd when she spoke of the “bathtub of Napoles full of bags containing millions of money.”
She described her son Benhur as “a good person, kind, with no enemies.”
She narrated how her family suffered while Benhur was detained by Napoles.