A new witness in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam has surfaced and implicated a former top aide of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile in the scheme purportedly masterminded by fugitive businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
A driver, the 10th witness to come forward claimed in an interview with the INQUIRER on Wednesday that he and another employee handed millions of pesos in cash to Lucila Jessica “Gigi” Reyes in the La Vista, Quezon City house of the lawyer who was then Enrile’s chief of staff.
This was before Reyes reportedly resigned in December last year in the aftermath of the selective distribution of Christmas bonuses to senators by the then Senate President, the new witness said.
“I was the driver of the courier of the money from Madam Janet and saw him take out bundles of cash from a duffel bag and place them on a table in the sala in front of Attorney Gigi,” the witness said in the interview in the presence of other whistle-blowers and their counsel at a safe house in Metro Manila.
The 10th accuser named the courier as John Reymund de Asis, also a JLN employee and president of Kaupdanan Para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc., one of several dozen NGOs allegedly controlled by Napoles.
“Apart from driving De Asis to deliver money, I also drive him around on the order of Madam Janet,” Levito Baligod, counsel of the whistle-blowers, said.
Reyes did not answer calls by the Inquirer for comment. She earlier denied she was a contact of the Napoles group. “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 last week.
Luy was the principal whistle-blower in the racket that involved turning allocations in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, of senators and congressmen and funds from other state agencies into kickbacks. Luy was a cousin and employee of Napoles who was detained for three months by the businesswoman and her brother, Reynald Lim.
Witness can’t be named yet
Rescued in March by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, Luy said he was kept hostage by Napoles because she suspected he was out to compete with her in her racket converting funds meant for rural development, farmers and typhoon victims into ghost projects using dummy nongovernment organizations (NGOs) over the past 10 years.
Nine former Napoles employees and relatives had joined the 31-year-old Luy in his accusations against the businesswoman. Five senators and 23 members of the House of Representatives allegedly gave Napoles access to their PDAF allocations.
Baligod allowed the Inquirer to talk to the new witness on the condition that he would not be identified. “These are simple people and could be in danger when exposed prematurely,” Baligod said.
Bundles of money
The whistle-blower said that after bundles of money were placed on the table in the Reyes residence, De Asis got the bag back. He said there was no other person in the living room when the money was given.
He explained that he accompanied De Asis as he got off the vehicle to the main door which was left open. “I stood at the door and from there I could clearly see the activity inside,” the 10th whistle-blower said.
Baligod said based on the statements of the newest witness, the deliveries were made between 2009 and 2011 in upscale subdivisions in Makati City and Reyes’ Quezon City residence.
“There were three deliveries, two to the house of Ruby Tuason at Dasmariñas Village in Makati City and the other one was in La Vista Village in Quezon City,” Baligod said.
The new whistle-blower said that it was always Napoles who ordered him to drive the courier to deliver the money to Reyes.
Baligod also said that the 10th whistle-blower also personally drove for Napoles.
“The ninth and 10th whistle-bowers were employed by Napoles at the same time and in some occasions were with her when she met with legislators,” Baligod said.
The ninth whistle-blower said in her affidavit that she acted as Napoles’ girl Friday for a time. She said she also picked up gifts for lawmakers and was present when Napoles had dinners with lawmakers in expensive restaurants.
She also corroborated an earlier statement of Luy that Napoles kept “a red book that contained records of her transactions with senators and congressman.”
However, Napoles in a round-table interview with the Inquirer denied having this book.
The new witness also corroborated statements of other whistle-blowers that they signed documents with fabricated names on orders of Napoles, who went into hiding last week after a court issued a warrant for her arrest, and that of her brother Reynald Lim, for the serious illegal detention of Luy.
Nine former Napoles employees have corroborated Luy’s accusations, including two last week who refused to be named for security reasons.
The ninth whistle-blower said dinners with the lawmakers were in expensive restaurants, like Greenhills Stone Grill and Tsukiji in Makati City.
She said Napoles asked her to buy gifts for the senators. “One time she asked me to pick a ball pen, Montblanc, worth P65,000 from Rustan’s,” she said, adding she paid for it in cash.
“I had to get the ball pen the following day because it had to be engraved with the senator’s name,” she said. With a report from Norman Bordadora