Aquino allies Abad, Villanueva were Napoles clients, witness tells court
Video by RYAN LEAGOGO/INQUIRER.net
Administration allies Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) chief Joel Villanueva were once clients of accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, a witness told the court on Friday.
During Napoles’ bail hearing from plunder at the Sandiganbayan Third Division, witness Merlina Suñas said Villanueva as former Cibac party-list representative and Abad as former Batanes representative were clients of Napoles.
Ironically, Villanueva used to represent the anticorruption party-list Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption or Cibac.
Suñas listed the names upon the cross examination of Napoles’ lawyer Dennis Buenaventura who asked if Abad and Villanueva were clients of Napoles.
“Kliyente si Villanueva pero between 2007 (and) 2009,” Suñas said.
Suñas clarified that though Abad was a client of Napoles, the transactions with Abad as Batanes representative did not push through.
“On the part of Abad, nag-usap-usap lang pero no projects … Naging kliyente siya (Abad) pero walang naging transaction,” Suñas said.
Napoles in her affidavit has tagged Abad as the mastermind of the scam. She claimed she started transacting with pork barrel funds after she met Abad, then a congressman. Abad denied the accusations.
In a statement Friday, Abad questioned Suñas’ credibility as witness because she had flipflopped on her testimony pinning Abad to the scam.
The Cabinet official said Suñas contradicts herself in her testimonies, adding that he remained confident he would be absolved from the scam in the course of the investigation.
“It has come to my office’s attention that Ms. Suñas named me as a Napoles ‘client’ in her testimony before the Sandiganbayan Third Division today. This is a surprising development, because when she last mentioned my name, it was to deny that I had transacted with Napoles. If you recall, this contradicts her earlier statement that I was a ‘client,’ as she explicitly said in her November 2013 affidavit,” Abad said.
“It appears that Ms. Suñas is prone to giving inconsistent testimony, and that alone raises serious questions on her credibility… It is crucial now that we establish the truth, and it’s unfortunate that Ms. Suñas is doing the exact opposite. Her statements against me are untrue, and I have no doubt that this will be proven soundly in the course of the investigation,” Abad added.
Suñas also tagged as Napoles’ first client former Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., who founded the Pambansang Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan. His son Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III is a member of President Benigno Aquino III’s Liberal Party.
Also among Napoles’ earliest clients were Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.’s father Ramon Revilla Sr., Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s mother Loi Estrada, and the late Sen. Robert Barbers, Suñas said.
Suñas repeated her usual list of names who she alleged became Napoles’ clients—Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile (who all are detained for plunder); Senators Gringo Honasan, Tito Sotto and Loren Legarda; former Representatives Rizalina Seachon Lanete and Edgar Valdez (detained for plunder) and Samuel Dangwa, Constantino Jaraula and Rodolfo Plaza (who face malversation raps).
Suñas also mentioned congressmen Estrellas and Ortegas. The congressmen tagged in the scam are former La Union Representatives Manuel and Victor Ortega and former Abono party-list representatives Conrad Estrella III and Robert Raymund Estrella.
Suñas earlier tagged as recipients of Napoles Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and brother Abante Mindanao Rep. Maximo Rodriguez; former Muntinlupa representative and resigned Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon and his father, former senator, Armed Forces chief and now Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, among others.
Villanueva, Honasan, the Ortegas and Estrellas, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rodriguez and Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing are said to be included in the third batch of pork barrel scam cases this time over malversation.
The hearings over the scam have resulted in the detention for plunder of the following lawmakers—Senators Revilla, Estrada and Enrile, and former representatives Lanete and Valdez.
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