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Benhur Luy upstages Napoles in Senate hearing

Benhur Luy stole the show from Janet Lim-Napoles.

As Napoles curtly replied either an “I don’t know” or invoked her right against self-incrimination, Luy recounted how his former employer schemed to divert allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) into her bank accounts and gave lawmakers kickbacks.

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During a six-hour testimony at the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing televised nationwide on the P10-billion PDAF scam, Luy said he and Napoles’ driver delivered payoffs to Agusan del Norte Rep. Rodolfo Plaza’s house at Alabang Hills, Ruby Tuason at Bel-Air and Pauline Labayen in Dasmariñas Village.

“Congressman Plaza himself received his kickback. Their agreement is 50 percent,” said Luy, a cousin and former personal aide of Napoles.

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“I don’t know the addresses of the lawmakers and those of the chiefs of staff. I only got to know them when madam gave me the addresses and the driver and I were told to go there,” Luy said, contradicting Napoles’ denial of such instructions to deliver kickbacks.

Tuason was purportedly Napoles’ link to Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, and Labayen to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. The two senators, along with Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., are under investigation for plunder by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Plaza is being investigated in the scam for violation of the antigraft law.

Napoles denied instructing Luy to deposit funds in the accounts of lawmakers and their representatives.

“She’s lying,” said Luy, who said that Napoles gave him the lawmakers’ bank account numbers.

Luy said he also personally gave former Apec Rep. Edgar Valdes his share of the loot, while lawyer Richard Cambe, Tuason and Labayen also went to the office of Napoles.

Cambe is a member of Revilla’s staff. Like Tuason and Labayen, Cambe is  among those charged in the PDAF scam.

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Luy said he saw Napoles giving money to officials of implementing agencies at her office.

“When Ms. Napoles gives the instruction to prepare the money and their 10-percent commission, I will so prepare it. I will type the voucher and have it checked by my seniors or by her daughter Jo Christine,” Luy said. “I will bring the money to her office and there are instances when she and I will meet the person and give the money contained in a paper bag.”

Luy said he saw Alan Javellana, a former president of the National Agribusiness Corp., and Antonio Ortiz, former head of the Technology Resource Center, receive their respective payoffs.

Other sources of kickbacks

Luy said Napoles, the head of JLN group of companies, also snagged millions of pesos in budget insertions and government savings as could be gleaned in the case of Plaza.

“As you can see from [the affidavit], supposedly his commission should be P37 million from the PDAF of P75 million. Why did it reach P42.137 million? Madam manages to get funds from insertions in government department agencies for instance during budget hearings,” Luy said.

“Madam gets to ask for savings. That’s why in my records, aside from the PDAF, our JLN office also gets extra savings,” Luy added.

Wearing a bulletproof vest, the 50-year-old Napoles was taken to the Senate by a 100-strong team of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force from its Sto. Domingo Camp in Sta. Rosa, Laguna province, where she is being held for serious illegal detention for allegedly holding captive Luy for three months in a bid to stop him from testifying against her. She surrendered to President Aquino on Aug. 28.

Luy, 31, was rescued by a special team of the National Bureau of Investigation in March. He and 10 other former Napoles relatives and employees later executed sworn statements detailing the businesswoman’s alleged racket.

Napoles denied wrongdoing, claimed she knew nothing of the alleged PDAF scam. She disputed allegations she formed 20 nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and used them to channel pork barrel funds meant to ease rural poverty to ghost projects.

“I pity the senators and congressmen. Even their names are being dragged in this mess,” Napoles said.

Phone, CCTV records

Luy suggested that the Senate secure Napoles’ phone records to determine the lawmakers she had talked to and the closed-circuit television (CCTV) tapes of her office building. “You’ll see that there were lawmakers going there,” Luy said.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, the committee chair, confronted Napoles with the payoff vouchers Luy made allegedly upon her instructions.

“Do you think lawmakers or their chiefs of staff will sign such vouchers if they are for kickbacks?” Napoles said.

Luy said Napoles herself told the recipients of the money that such documents were just for the internal accounting purposes of her office.

Marina Sula, another former Napoles employee, corroborated Luy’s testimony. She said she filed the vouchers.

“But this January 2013, we started shredding documents at Pacific Plaza.  [Napoles] didn’t want any proof against her,” Sula said.

“Because of the volume of the documents being shredded [Napoles] bought a heavy duty shredder so that it won’t overheat,” Sula said.

Luy said he kept records of the transactions with the lawmakers or their chiefs of staff but did not know what happened to them after he was arbitrarily detained by Napoles.

“Ms. Napoles, there are many details being presented here,” Guingona said.

“They’re not true,” Napoles shot back.

“You are under oath,” Guingona said.

“Yes,” Napoles said.

Division of loot

Napoles also denied Luy’s earlier testimony that under her scheme, 50 percent of a PDAF allocation went to the lawmaker, 35 percent to Napoles, 10 percent to the implementing agencies and 5 percent to the lawmakers’ chiefs of staff.

Merlina Suñas, also a former employee turned whistle-blower, said Luy’s allegation was true and that Napoles even promised the members of the fake NGO 1 percent of the loot.

“That’s her promise to us. But she never gave us that part,” Suñas said.

At the start of the hearing, Napoles denied ordering Luy and his fellow employees to form fake NGOs. Luy told the committee Napoles was lying.

Luy and his fellow whistle-blowers testified that Napoles liquidated the millions of pesos in PDAF coursed through her fake foundations by coming up with hundreds of names as fake beneficiaries.

“She’s lying. Because in the list of fake beneficiaries, even she and her children signed,” said Sula.

“We signed the list of beneficiaries in the conference room. When there are too many names that need to be signed and she didn’t have anything to do, she would join us in signing the fake signatures of the beneficiaries. We had so many kinds of ball pens in signing,” Sula added.

“Is this true, Ms. Napoles?” Guingona asked.

“Hindi po (No, sir),” Napoles said.

Payoffs to senators

Luy testified that the staff of Revilla, Estrada and Enrile went to the JLN office to receive their commissions from their PDAF allocations.

At the request of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Luy read portions of his affidavit detailing the amount of PDAF and the commissions released to the senators and their staff.

Citing his accounting records from 2004 to 2010, Luy said Revilla’s PDAF covered by a special allotment release order totaled P652 million, and the 50-percent commission was P326 million.

In his records, only P224.5 million was released, Luy said.

Enrile had a total PDAF of P726.55 million, and also got a 50-percent commission of P363.2 million. In his record, Luy said of the amount, only P172.8 million was released. The commission was picked up at the JLN office by Ruby Tuason, Luy said.

Estrada, for his part, had a PDAF of P751.5 million and 55-percent commission of P375.7 million. But P183.79 million was released. The commission was picked up by Pauline Labayen, he said.

Inconsistencies

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano pointed out inconsistencies between Napoles’ claim that she had no knowledge of the pork barrel, and her 2006 letter to agriculture officials seeking a certification that her company’s purchase of fertilizer was funded with the PDAF.

Cayetano produced documents, including a March 27, 2006, letter purportedly from Napoles to then Agriculture Secretary Domingo Panganiban, and questioned her about it.

In that letter, Napoles was requesting a certification that the money used to purchase liquid fertilizer from her company Jo-Chris Trading for the entire 2004 came from the PDAF of House representatives.

Napoles said she wasn’t aware of the letter. She later said if this was covered in the plunder complaint filed against her in the Office of the Ombudsman, she was invoking her right against self-incrimination.

Cayetano next produced another document on the April 2005 purchase of 3,108 bottles of liquid fertilizers allegedly approved by Napoles. Again, she said could not recall this. Her former employee, Marina Sula, confirmed she approved such purchase.

Under questioning by Sen. Francis Escudero, Napoles said she could not recall the “lady mastermind” of the scam that she mentioned to Inquirer editors and staff after the paper broke the scam.

(Editor’s Note: In the Inquirer interview, Napoles said Luy had another boss, a woman. She whispered the name to one of those present.)

Levito Baligod, counsel for the whistle-blowers, also testified that he was offered by Napoles’ lawyer Freddie Villamor up to P300 million to fix the case, but he rejected this.

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TAGS: Benhur Luy, Janet Lim Napoles, pork barrel scam, Senate hearing
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