MANILA, Philippines—Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile has not met Janet Lim-Napoles apparently because he had left it to his chief of staff to handle the release of his pork barrel funds to the dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs) allegedly operated by the fugitive businesswoman.
According to the Commission on Audit (COA) report of its special audit of the congressional pork barrel funds released between 2007 and 2009, Enrile denied signing any documents relating to the fake NGOs, but “he confirmed to have authorized his chief of staff to sign on his behalf.”
Whistle-blower Benhur Luy, a Napoles relative who acted as her bookkeeper to keep track of kickbacks and profit-sharing with the legislators involved, told the Inquirer that Napoles’ main contacts with Enrile’s office was lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Gonzales-Reyes and Jose Antonio Evangelista.
Reyes was Enrile’s chief of staff of long standing until she was forced to quit early this year after being criticized by some senators for calling them “hypocrites” during the Senate Christmas funds scandal. She is widely known in the Senate to sign official documents and checks on Enrile’s behalf.
Denial from chief of staff
Contacted for comment, Reyes on Friday said the senator would normally designate her “and/or any of our deputy chiefs of staff” to sign documents on his behalf.
“But specifically regarding his PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund), Senator Enrile himself signs the endorsement to the DBM (Department of Budget and Management),” she said in a text message.
“I never signed any endorsement to the DBM to nominate any project whether under the senator’s PDAF, VILP (Various Infrastructure including Local Projects) or other sources,” she added.
Reyes said either she or deputy chief of staff Jose Antonio Evangelista would sign documents required by the implementing agencies “but only pursuant to the written authorization of the senator.”
“But the COA provided our office numerous documents where our signatures were obviously forged and we intend to present these in the investigation,” she said.
Reyes denied knowing Luy.
“I challenge him to prove his claim that I am their contact whoever he was referring to. I had encountered Ms Janet Lim-Napoles on several occasions before, but I’ve never met Benhur Luy,” she said.
The COA said Enrile’s chief of staff, which it did not identify in the report, confirmed signing documents to the NGOs under investigation in the multibillion peso pork barrel scam except for one such NGO.
In the case of the Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation Inc. (KKFI), “the chief of staff confirmed signatures in the MOA (memorandum of agreement) but denied signatures in the certificates of acceptance and list of beneficiaries for projects implemented,” the COA said.
NGO pork recipients
According to the COA report, Enrile received a total of P904 million in pork barrel from 2007 to 2009 (he became Senate President in November 2008).
The COA report zeroed in on around P300 million of Enrile’s pork barrel allocations which went to the Social Development Program for Farmers Foundations Inc., or SDPFFI (P101.85 million), Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc., or Cared (P76 million); Dr. Rodolfo Ignacio Sr. Foundation Inc. (P35.55 million); People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc., or POPDFI, (P24.25 million); Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc., or AEPFFI (P24.25 million); Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation Inc. (P14.56 million); Agricultura Para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc., or APMFI (P24.25 million); Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc., or MAMFI (P58.2million); Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc. (P10.9 million); Kaloocan Assistance Council Inc. (P10 million); Rotary Club of New Manila East (P2 million); and local government assistance to Taguig (P4.55 million) and Quezon City (P1.598 million).
The COA report showed that Enrile had chosen the NGO beneficiary and conduit to be used. For example, the COA said Enrile’s office requested that the implementing agency for one project be changed from the National Livelihood Development Corp. to the Technology Resource Center, but the same NGO beneficiary (Cared) be retained.
5 Napoles NGOs
The COA report also showed that Enrile had forked over his pork barrel to at least 5 Napoles-linked NGOs—SDPFFI, Cared, POPDFI, AEPFFI, and APMFI—that Luy claimed gave senators and representatives handsome profits in exchange for looking the other way when the NGOs listed down ghost projects and fake beneficiaries in their accomplishment reports.
The COA report showed that at least three suppliers (B.B. Vergara, JR and JP Enterprises, and J Sangalang Garden and Plant Nursery) connected to Enrile’s pork barrel have denied having made any transaction with the fake NGOs.
Another six suppliers were also found to have submitted spurious receipts and documents—Nutrigrowth Philippines, Calpito Agrifarm and Machineries Enterprises, LR Services, Livelihood Research Corp., and TNU Trading and MMRC Trading of the Napoles group.
Enrile also released P2 million for the Rotary Club of New Manila East ostensibly for a milk-feeding program for malnourished children in Quezon City. The COA said the club has no SEC registration and local business permit, and has yet to liquidate this disbursement. With Norman Bordadora