I was trembling in fear before NBI agents–Benhur Luy
Benhur Luy, the principal witness in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, was quizzed on the witness stand in the Makati Regional Trial Court on Tuesday over a letter he had written to his family that did not mention that he was being detained by Janet Lim-Napoles.
Arriving at the courtroom with security escorts from the Department of Justice’s witness-protection program and wearing a bullet-proof vest and helmet, Luy appeared for the second time at the continuation of the hearing on the petition for bail of Napoles.
Napoles and her brother Reynald Lim are accused of illegally detaining Luy for three months from Dec. 19, 2012, to March 22, 2013, at the Discovery Center in Ortigas and in a house on Lapu-Lapu Street in Magallanes Village, Makati City.
Luy’s rescue by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) led to the discovery of a scam in which a network of bogus nongovernment organizations founded by Napoles apparently cornered billions of pesos in pork barrel, or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), of some senators and congressmen. Luy, a relative and employee of Napoles, claimed that parts of the funds were funneled back to the lawmakers.
Napoles is detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, while her brother remains at large.
The lawyer leading the cross-examination in the court of Judge Elmo Alameda was Alfredo Villamor.
Villamor emphasized that a letter Luy had slipped to his sister on Nov. 21 as well as a notebook diary where he had jotted down Bible verses did not mention his detention.
In the handwritten letter, Luy had asked his family to “join him in prayer, say 2,000 Hail Marys and do fasting.” Luy also asked his family to “seek the forgiveness of Napoles’ family for whatever sins they had done.”
Luy explained he was referring to the accusations of Napoles and Lim that he had made secret transactions with the chiefs of staff of certain senators and congressman involving their PDAF—a duplication of Napoles’ alleged scam.
But if this was the first opportunity Luy had to communicate with his family, and there was no one to influence him, it was noteworthy that there was no mention of his “detention,” Villamos said.
“Yes, but I was so afraid that if (Lim) discovered it, he would view it differently…I did it to test if I would succeed. And if I did, I would (write another letter) telling my family I was in Magallanes detained against my will, my movements were guarded, and that they should rescue me,” Luy told the court.
Both the prosecution and the defense are using the Feb. 21 letter as evidence.
Asked whom he was afraid of and who ordered his detention, Luy answered “Madam Jenny,” Napoles’ nickname.
“But you did not hear Jenny say the threats nor did you see her keep you detained?” Villamor asked.
Luy said it was Lim who told him that the order to detain him had come from Napoles.
Luy said that what prevented him from attempting to escape was knowing what “Napoles and her connections could do.”
When NBI agents came to rescue him at the Pacific Plaza in Bonifacio Global City, Luy admitted that at first he did not want to go with them.
He said he was trembling in fear at the sight of the NBI men. Luy said he thought they were sent to liquidate him.
“Ma, ayokong sumama. Wala akong ginawang masama, Kuya Jojo (I don’t want to go with them. I have not done anything wrong),” Luy recalled telling his mother and Lim.
On the first day of the bail hearing, the defense lawyers argued that there was no need for Benhur’s rescue as shown by his refusal to be taken by the NBI.
But Luy noted that he resisted at first because of fear but his mother, Gertrudes Luy, later convinced him that the NBI was on their side.
Luy also told the court that after his rescue, he discovered that all his bank accounts had been emptied.
He learned that P800,000 in his account at Metrobank had been transferred to the account of the JLN Corp. using his forged signature. He said, P207,000 from his UCPB bank account had also been withdrawn.
His dollar account containing $13,761 was closed after someone carrying his passbook and a withdrawal slip withdrew the entire amount.
Judge Elmo Alameda asked the prosecution lawyers to present all the documents pertaining to Luy’s bank accounts.
Before noon, Alameda suspended the cross-examination and set its continuation on Wednesday morning.
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