Suspected double cross led to Benhur Luy’s detention
Janet Lim-Napoles ordered the detention of her chief aide, Benhur Luy, after she learned that he was making deals with her contacts behind her back and feared losing control of her pork barrel racket, a prosecution witness testified yesterday.
Merlina Suñas, the third witness to be called at the hearing on Napoles’ petition for bail in connection with serious illegal detention charges, said that Napoles was fuming when she learned about Luy’s activities that she felt had caused her to lose projects under the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Suñas quoted Napoles as saying in Filipino:
“That’s why the PDAF reaching me is smaller, Benhur has hidden transactions with the senators’ chiefs of staff,” Suñas said during cross-examination by Napoles’ lawyer, Lorna Kapunan, before Judge Elmo Alameda of Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150.
Suñas said she, Napoles, Luy and other employees of the JLN Corp. met on Dec. 19 last year at 10:30 a.m. at Discovery Center in Ortigas when Napoles grabbed Luy’s iPhone and scrolled down his messages.
“Madam Jenny saw text messages of Ma’am Maya and got really mad,” Suñas said. She referred to Maya Santos, a purported project coordinator working for Senators Loren Legarda and Bongbong Marcos.
Suñas said that Napoles, in a telephone conversation the witness said she overheard, cursed Santos for being a traitor. She quoted Napoles as telling Santos, “You whom I trusted, my friend, would be the one betraying me?”
She described Maya Santos as “the project coordinator managing the funds of the senators to be given to Madam Jenny.” (Legarda’s office said the senator had no staff member named Maya Santos.)
Suñas said Napoles was so angry she was cursing both Santos and Luy.
The witness, an employee of JLN Corp. for 12 years, said Napoles afterward talked over the phone with a certain Attorney Asoy, previously identified as Patricio Asoy, the then assistant vice president of Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association INC. (AMWSLAI).
“I just overheard (Napoles) ask Attorney Asoy, ‘Did Benhur take a loan from you?’ After that, the speaker in the phone was turned off.”
Loans for advance rebates
Suñas told the court that Luy took out loans from AMWSLAI for the “advance rebates” of the senators and congressmen.
She also said Napoles had learned through another JLN employee, Baby Sula, that Luy had more or less P800,000 in his savings account in Metrobank. Napoles ordered Sula to transfer the money to JLN’s account.
At the height of Napoles’ anger, she told the JLN employees during the Dec. 19 meeting, “Ikulong na ’yan (Jail him),” two to three times, referring to Luy.
Luy was then taken to one of the five rooms of the 2501 unit, an adjacent unit to the office of JLN Corp. at Discovery Center.
Suñas said she could see Napoles’ personal guard watching Luy.
On the same day that Benhur was taken to a separate room, Suñas said the employees were ordered by Napoles to go over the steel cabinet of Luy. They took his bag containing two car keys and a wallet containing P40,000, she added.
Suñas gave the money to Napoles and the car keys to her nephew John Lim and brother Reynald Lim. The brother is a coaccused in the illegal detention case and is at large.
No personal knowledge
Kapunan manifested to Judge Alameda that Suñas had no personal knowledge about Luy’s supposed detention from Dec. 20 to March 25 and had only learned about it from Luy’s account.
According to Suñas, she got a call from Luy after his rescue by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation on March 25. “It was Good Friday or Maundy Thursday then, he called me. I was surprised. ‘Tita, this is Ben, Nakalabas na ako (I’m free).’”
“You said in your affidavit executed on April 2 that you never saw or talked to Benhur since Dec. 19? But you were telling us that you have spoken to him after the NBI raid? Were you lying in the affidavit, are you lying here, were you lying all the time?” Kapunan said.
Suñas said seeing and talking to someone personally is different from just speaking on the phone.
The hearing on the bail petition is set to continue on Oct. 7.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.