Poor farmers testify vs pork barrel scam ‘mastermind’ Napoles
MANILA, Philippines —Poor farmers on Friday testified that they received no agricultural kits from projects implemented by the foundations linked to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
During Napoles’ bail hearing for plunder, Rogelio Dela Cruz and Leonardo Corpuz testified that they received no farmers’ kits even when their names were on the master list of supposed farmer beneficiaries of projects funded by senators’ Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) from 2009 to 2010.
Dela Cruz, a farmer from Umingan, Pangasinan, said he only found out he was a ghost beneficiary when Ombudsman investigators went to him and verified with him if he received farm inputs like fertilizers, farming equipment, among others.
Casually dressed in a tucked-in blue polo shirt, the dark-skinned farmer said he does not recognize the signature affixed beside his name on the master list of the supposed beneficiaries.
When asked if he knows where the ghost projects came from, Dela Cruz said: “Sabi nila, sa PDAF daw ng mga senador (They said the ghost projects came from the PDAF of senators).
Corpuz, who is also from Umingan, said he does not remember receiving any farm inputs from a PDAF project.
Garbed in a loose polo shirt, the farmer also said he does not recognize the signature beside his signature in the supposed list.
Napoles’ lawyer Lani David questioned the credibility of the witnesses, at one point asking farmer Corpuz if indeed he was the only one in Umingan named Leonardo Corpuz.
Corpuz said he was the only one named as such in Umingan, saying he was able to verify this with the civil registrar when he transferred to a different barangay.
Napoles, who was present in the hearing, was noticeably silent as she watched the poor farmers whom she allegedly deprived of agricultural assistance when she purportedly amassed millions of kickbacks from the ghost projects.
She was taking down notes during the hearing, and when she got bored, read a book about Pope Francis.
Narcisa De Guzman, an agriculturist from General Tinio, Nueva Ecija, also testified that she received no agricultural inputs even when her municipality was included in the list of supposed beneficiaries for 216 agricultural and livelihood kits worth P4.86 million from an alleged Napoles foundation Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation.
She also denied that the supposed beneficiaries of the projects were from her municipality.
De Guzman said she was present when the municipal mayor called up the Civil Registrar and the Commission on Elections which denied that the alleged beneficiaries were residents of General Tinio.
“So far, our office has no knowledge of the aforesaid fund releases… The municipality has not received any fund whatsoever… I categorically state that the list of beneficiaries shown to me was not prepared by my office,” she said in her sworn statement submitted to the court.
Napoles’ lawyer David told reporters that the poor farmers’ testimonies are irrelevant because these do not prove plunder was committed.
Napoles faces multiple plunder and graft charges before the antigraft court for allegedly masterminding the scam of pilfering lawmakers’ PDAF to ghost projects for kickbacks. She is detained for plunder at the Camp Bagong Diwa female dormitory in Taguig.
Also detained for plunder due to the scam are senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.
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