Luy warned parts of testimony vs Estrada speculative
MANILA, Philippines — Justices of the Sandiganbayan division trying detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada for plunder and graft for allegedly receiving kickbacks from his pork barrel allocations warned principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy on Monday against “speculating” on how the senator supposedly received the payoffs.
Continuing his testimony at Estrada’s bail hearing, Luy told the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division that some of the senator’s friends collected on his behalf the “rebates” or kickbacks from the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles.
In at least three transactions in 2010, Luy said Napoles handed out cash and checks amounting to over P60 million to a certain Juan Ng.
He said the amount was Estrada’s share from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allotments, which he assigned to two of the fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs) set up by Napoles.
Besides Ng, he said, another friend of the senator, a certain Fritz Yengco, also received money from Napoles on behalf of Estrada.
“Senator Estrada’s kickbacks were coursed through Juan Ng who is a close friend of the senator,” Luy said in Filipino during the direct examination by Special Prosecutor Cristina Batacan.
Estrada has been charged with plunder for allegedly pocketing P183 million in kickbacks from nonexistent projects funded by his PDAF from 2007 to 2009.
Asked by Associate Justice Maria Cristina Cornejo why Napoles gave money to Ng, he said: “From what I know, the money was intended for Senator Estrada.”
“We also transferred funds to Juan Ng’s bank accounts. He was also the one who encashed the checks,” he added.
Cornejo then asked Luy what was his basis in saying that Ng gave the money to the senator, he replied: “It was (Napoles) who told me about it.”
“What happens to the check after?” the justice asked Luy.
To which Luy answered, “It will be encashed and given to Senator Estrada.”
It was at that point that Cornejo cut off Luy: “You are speculating.”
Sabino Acut, one of Estrada’s defense lawyers, raised his objections to the court, saying Luy’s reply should be expunged from the anti-graft court’s records because they were “unresponsive” to Batacan’s questions.
Associate Justice Roland Jurado, chair of the Third Division, granted Acut’s motion to strike out a portion of the whistle-blowers’ testimony.
When Luy tried to explain, Jurado said: “No more. Let that part be stricken out from the records.”
Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Estrada admitted that he personally knew Ng and described him as his “friend” and a “legitimate businessman” from San Juan City.
But he vehemently denied that Ng was fronting for him, saying his friend was engaged in several businesses in the country.
“He (Luy) is concocting stories. I know Juan Ng. I know him personally. Maybe he has different transactions with Napoles, which I don’t know,” Estrada said.
Asked to comment on Cornejo’s observation, he said: “It’s true that what Benhur Luy mentioned are all hearsay and speculations. There’s no concrete evidence or proof that he gave money to me.”
In his testimony, Luy also implicated Estrada’s mother, former Sen. Loi Estrada, in the pork barrel scam. Luy said the former senator funneled P50 million of her pork barrel allocations to Napoles’ NGOs.
He said Napoles assigned the codename “Inay” to the senator’s mother.
“She was also a client of Napoles,” Luy said.
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