ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The claim of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles that she inherited P2 million was surprising because her father, Johnny Lim, was bankrupt when he died and had nothing to leave his children, people who knew Napoles since high school days said.
Napoles has been accused of rigging P10-billion in pork barrel releases from government, with the use of fake nongovernment organizations, and is now detained on a charge of serious illegal detention filed by a former aide who informed the National Bureau of Investigation about the scam.
Friends of Napoles said that in fact, Napoles’ family became so poor that her mother, Magdalena, sold banana cue outside the Claret High School so she could feed her children.
“Jenny would come to our house with a bowl of rice in one hand and ask us for dried salted fish each day,” Rohana Cabayacruz, the alleged pork scam queen’s high school classmate, said.
Cabayacruz said her family then had a small eatery in front of the Lim house on Port Holland in Maluso, Basilan.
A physician, who wanted to remain anonymous, agreed with Cabayacruz’s account of Napoles’ life.
The physician said Napoles’ family had become so poor that she was not even able to wear decent dress.
“Her dress was so dirty and was soaking wet in sweat,” Cabayacruz said.
But she said Napoles was so enterprising she could practically make cash out of anything, as if she was endowed with the Midas touch.
“Each day, she would come to school with her big bag full of candies and school supplies. She would sell them during recess,” she said.
The physician said Napoles was “witty, talkative and persistent” that she sold many items to their classmates.
“She has this strong convincing power. Even teacher and nuns regularly bought from her,” he said.
Cabayacruz said Napoles would save the money she raised from selling goods to her classmates and teachers and would use a portion of it to pay for her tuition.
Another high school classmate, who also declined identification, said Napoles also sold goods at the Catholic church during Sundays.
Even when her mother, Magdalena, married Piana Luy, a member of the landed Luy clan in Maluso, Napoles’ life never became better, the classmates said.
Her time wih the stepfather was in fact one of the worst stages in Napoles’ life as she and her sibling were treated unfairly by members of the Luy clan.
“So it was not possible she got any inheritance from the Luys,” another classmate said.
Barely a year after graduating from high school, Napoles disappeared from Maluso. Her classmates said they later learned that she got married to man she met on a ship bound to Manila.
That man turned out to be Jaime Napoles, who would later become a Marine major and the intelligence chief of the military’s Southern Mindanao command, then the only military command for the southern Philippines.
“When we finally met after high school, I was in disbelief. She was already rich. She even made me carry her bag then, which was stuffed with money,” Cabayacruz said.
She said as far as she could recall, Napoles told her that she got into the supply business.
“She became a supplier of charcoal and chickens, and also spare parts for military tanks, aircraft and communication equipment,” Cabayacruz recounted what Napoles had allegedly told her.
Another classmate, who also did not want to be identified for some reasons, believed that whatever Janet has in life now was achieved with the help of her husband.
“Her husband was her strong influence,” the classmate said. Cabayacruz said despite the allegations against Napoles, they believed that she remained the same “Jenny” they used to know.
“Her family was the most important for her and always defended her kin. She was also very religious,” Cabayacruz said.