Even Sen. Sonny Angara couldn’t help but tweet his observations about Benhur Luy’s demeanor while testifying.
“Benhur Luy is the happiest whistle-blower I’ve seen. Frequently giggling,” Angara said on Twitter.
Yet, he was engaged in a very serious matter. Possibly even deadly.
The long-haired witness not only wore a bulletproof vest under a black hoodie. Three security men from the Witness Protection Program also stood guard right behind him as he spoke of what could possibly be the biggest scandal involving the Congress of the Philippines.
And the star witness sounded like he was just telling a simple story—direct to the point but without naming names which was the only condition he asked before he would testify.
Under heavy security, Luy showed up at the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on Thursday and spoke of the alleged role of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles—his second cousin—in a multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
A Senate female staff described the heavy guard around Luy as “the first time (such a security was enforced) in the history of Senate inquiries.”
“I think he is very credible and very believable,” Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, the Senate blue ribbon committee chair, told reporters. “It was a very convincing testimony.”
He added, “There is reasonable basis to conclude that there is in fact either malversation of public funds or plunder committed by some legislators.”
Praise from netizens
Luy’s testimony drew a host of comments on the Internet.
#BENHURLUY, yo da man!” netizen witness LBJKing said. Netizen resregacho tweeted: “Praying for this guy’s life. God bless you #BenHurLuy.”
“#BenhurLuy You are one of the unsung heroes of our country … I salute you,” netizen jordan_bautista tweeted.
For someone facing what Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said was a “serious threat on his life,” the 31-year-old Luy appeared very relaxed, reciting from memory how legislators allegedly channeled their pork barrel to fake foundations put up by Napoles. He had no notes whatsoever.
He was cool, unflappable, spontaneous.
Described as an expert in faking signatures, Luy admitted doing such work for some lawmakers but “with the approval of Ms. Napoles.”
He initially downplayed being good at duplicating signatures but later spoke of the differences in the individual legislator’s “strokes.”
“You’re even talking of ‘strokes,’” Sen. Francis Escudero said in jest during the five-hour hearing that detailed how Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations allegedly went to Napoles, to legislators and to implementing agencies.
Luy was apparently no stranger to the Senate. He admitted being in the chamber in 2004, 2011 and last year—once to go to the office of a senator code-named “Sexy.”
He said he usually logged in the Senate ledger before proceeding to the office of a senator he had a transaction with.
“I’m just curious. You said ‘Sexy’ is a guy. How did that happen?” Escudero asked in Filipino.
“At first, they said he was chubby, then he suddenly slimmed down—so, ‘Sexy,’” Luy replied, prompting Escudero to manifest in jest that he himself was “slim long ago.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, for his part, said he was “getting slim but I’m not ‘sexy.’”
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who had been implicated in the alleged scam, vehemently denied knowing Luy or ever meeting him.
“Mamatay man (Let me die if I’m telling a lie),” Estrada, who watched the hearing at home, told the Inquirer on the phone.
Luy didn’t appear tense during the hearing, despite De Lima’s statement that she had “raw information” on a security threat against the whistle-blower.
Luy entered the session hall some 20 minutes after the hearing began at 10:51 a.m. He occupied the seat beside De Lima, who sat across Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, the committee chair.
At least three security men stood guard right behind Luy as he spoke.
How he started
A medical technology graduate, Luy said he joined Napoles in 2002, serving as an assistant who usually joined Napoles and her husband in their car.
Later, he said he was entrusted with handling finances because he was “good at listing and liquidation.”
Prior to 2002, he said Napoles was “not rich” (mahirap lang) judging by her “small” house in Biñan, Laguna province.
“In 2002, I was surprised that she was already living in Ayala Alabang Village,” he said. “But I understood later on, after I learned she was a contractor transacting with the government.”
The scam’s principal whistle-blower did not touch his food during his testimony.
Luy, who simply drank water during the entire proceedings, also told the senators he had documents to support his testimonies.—With reports from Inquirer.net.