Senior staff members of four senators and a staff member of a congressman served as conduits for channeling funds to Janet Lim-Napoles, according to the whistle-blowers in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
In affidavits submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the racket allegedly masterminded by Napoles, the whistle-blowers identified the conduits as Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Gonzales-Reyes, chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile; Jose Antonio Evangelista, Enrile’s deputy chief of staff; Pauline Labayen, deputy chief of staff of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada; Richard Cambe, chief political adviser to Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.; Jen Corpuz, a member of the staff of Sen. Vicente Sotto III; and Lourd Dexter D. Manalo, chief of staff of former Rep. Conrado Estrella.
The whistle-blowers also named Ruby Tuason, former social secretary of former President Joseph Estrada, now mayor of Manila, as Napoles’ conduit in the offices of Enrile and Senator Estrada.
They also named a certain Mae Catherine Santos as Napoles’ connection to Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sen. Loren Legarda.
The whistle-blowers did not link Legarda and Sotto to Napoles’ alleged racket in their earlier disclosures.
Legarda said Mae Catherine Santos was neither a member of her staff nor a consultant to her.
“I know her as she has been in the government, in the National Anti-Poverty Commission,” Legarda said. “Anyone who uses my name or my office may be held criminally liable,” she said in a text message.
Asked if she denies any dealing with any nongovernment organization associated with Napoles, Legarda said, “I do not know any of these people and have never dealt with them.”
Legarda said, “Any person outside of my office who claims to be handling my projects is unauthorized and indulging in malicious and vicious imputations and should be held criminally liable.”
She added, “We continually conduct due diligence as we always do in the monitoring of all our projects.”
Sotto said he knew a Jen Corpuz, but denied having links to Napoles.
“The Jen Corpuz I know is with the media and helps my office in our media requirements. I’m not aware of any Napoles connection to my office,” Sotto said in a text message.
Senator Estrada’s chief of staff, lawyer Raquel Mejia, confirmed that Labayen is connected with their office.
“She is the appointment secretary of the senator. As for Ruby Tuazon, we don’t have any staff by that name,” Mejia said in a text message.
“The senator had not read nor heard of the allegations about Ms. Labayen’s connection or relation with Ms. Napoles,” Mejia added.
The other senators had yet to comment on the whistle-blowers’ statements as of press time last night.
Enrile was not immediately available for comment, but an earlier text message from his former chief of staff, Reyes, involving another issue indicated her denial of being a “contact” of Benhur Luy, when he was involved in the racket.
In another controversy earlier this year, Enrile said that he had authorized his former chief of staff to sign documents on his behalf.
“I do not know Benhur Luy and I challenge him to prove his claim that I am ‘their contact’—whoever he was referring to,” Reyes said.
Luy is the principal witness in the pork barrel scam.
Marcos’ staff said his phone was out of the coverage area, while the staff of Revilla said he was in the middle of relief distribution in Laguna.
Luy said the conduits were also the contact persons of employees of Napoles’ JLN Corp. in the offices of the senators.
“We talked to them personally to follow up endorsement letters from the senators,” Luy said.
He said the conduits had authority to sign the letters on behalf of the senators.
Luy said he and the other JLN employees never dealt directly with Reyes, but talked and exchanged e-mails with the other conduits.
“We never dealt with Attorney Gigi and Ruby Tuason, because it was only Madame Janet who talked to them. But the other senior staff, we spoke to them and even exchanged e-mails (with them),” he said.
“The e-mails were usually letters addressed to heads of implementing agencies, which we crafted for their approval,” he said.
The whistle-blowers said Evangelista’s role was to provide documentation to JLN.
“We had no knowledge if Evangelista received money from Napoles, but we know that bags of money were being brought to the house of Attorney Gigi by one of the employees,” Luy said.
The whistle-blowers’ lawyer, Levito Baligod, requested that the name of the courier not be disclosed for security reasons.
Part of the evidence that Napoles submitted to the Department of Justice in the illegal detention case involving Luy was a ledger that showed Corpuz, a staff in Sotto’s office, took an advance of P2.750 million on a P10 million project.
But the project fell through, so the advance would be “offset from the next program listing in 2013.”
Baligod furnished the Inquirer with copies of sample transactions of the conduits, but requested that only one sample transaction be published for each conduit.
The record showed Corpuz also received P630,000 from JLN “for media.”
Cambe received P9.5 million on April 11, 2007, drawn from a P20 million project of Revilla in 2008.
Luy’s record also showed that Tuason received P60 million, but it was not clear if she received it for Enrile or Estrada.
“These were letters of release of funds for the [Department of Budget and Management] and the letter of endorsement to the implementing agency,” the whistle-blowers said.
Apart from letters of endorsement, the conduits also issued certificates of acceptance of delivery on behalf of the lawmakers, the whistle-blowers said.
The conduits for Napoles produced two kinds of letters, they said.
One letter was for the release of PDAF funds for the DBM and another was an endorsement addressed to the head of the implementing agency, they said.
“Madame Janet, or she would instruct us to follow up (the letters) to expedite the process,” Luy said.
The whistle-blowers also said that most of the congressmen who conducted transactions with Napoles did not appoint conduits.
“It’s they who appeared in the documents and who made the follow-up,” Luy said.
He said only Manalo was listed as a conduit for Napoles in the House of Representatives.
“There were no conduits with the other congressmen because we know they talked to Madame Janet personally,” Luy said.
He said some of the congressmen visited the JLN office at Discovery Center to get their money.
“Others were done through fund transfer bank to bank, others in checks and others wanted managers checks,” Luy said.
Luy said that Napoles once boasted to them that she was the one who paid for the 50th birth anniversary party of Reyes at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel last year.
Luy, who acted as Napoles’ bookkeeper, was able to save records of the transactions from an old computer that they kept after JLN Corp. upgraded its equipment.
The documents were eventually submitted to the NBI.
“It was providential that she changed computers and she gave the old ones to us,” Luy said. With a report from Norman Bordadora
First posted 12:19 am | Sunday, August 25th, 2013