Priests got pork manna
11th of a series
MANILA, Philippines—Detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, handed out generous donations to priests and nuns using allocations from the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), digital records of her former finance officer showed.
An entry in the records of Benhur Luy for May 10, 2007, under cash and check disbursements of Napoles’ JLN Corp., showed that she issued a Metrobank check to Msgr. Josefino Ramirez for P2.5 million. Ramirez was then rector of the Quiapo Basilica.
The entry showed that the check for Ramirez came from a PDAF project of Sen. Bong Revilla worth P50 million that was coursed through two bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) controlled by Napoles—the People’s Organization for Progress Development Foundation and Philippine Social Development Inc.
Another entry, for Oct. 16, 2008, showed that P434,451 was used to buy tickets for Ramirez’s travel to Europe. The amount came from the bank accounts of the Napoles’ NGOs.
Other entries showed Ramirez, who retired two years ago, received donations amounting to P800,000 from Napoles on several occasions. The Luy records showed that Napoles also spent P310,550 for a birthday party of Ramirez and another P9,000 for “guard of Monsi for Jolibee.” “Monsi” is Ramirez’s nickname in the Napoles circle.
The records also showed that Napoles distributed “stipends” totaling P344,000 on several occasions to what the Luy records named only as “priests/nuns, deacons” from 2004 to 2010.
The Inquirer sought comment from Ramirez. The office of the Archdiocese of Manila said the secretary of Ramirez reported that he was “indisposed.” The note indicated that Ramirez had kidney problems and he was undergoing dialysis treatment. The monsignor’s siblings do not wish to add to the stress that he is suffering, the note said.
The digital records of Luy were copied by the Inquirer from a hard disk drive (HDD) given by his family, accompanied by their lawyer, Levito Baligod, when they visited the newspaper on April 27, 2013.
The HDD was subsequently submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation and later turned over to the Office of the Ombudsman as part of the evidence against lawmakers who were implicated in the PDAF scam.
Luy, a relative of Napoles who served as her finance officer, recorded the PDAF transactions on orders of the businesswoman.
The 51-year-old Napoles is under police custody for serious illegal detention—not in connection with the PDAF scam—in a case filed by Luy, who alleged that he was kept hostage by his aunt for three months after he threatened to expose her activities.
In his complaint against Napoles, Luy said he was detained at Bahay San Jose, a Catholic retreat house in Magallanes Village in Makati City, where Ramirez and five Chinese priests were also staying at the time. The house was one of those reported to be owned by Napoles.
Ramirez and the Chinese priests—Fathers Paul Yang, Peter Guo, Joseph Gao, John Ma and Paul Dong—submitted a joint affidavit to the Department of Justice in defense of Napoles, saying that Luy was never detained by Napoles. The Chinese priests were then taking postgraduate studies here, according to their affidavits.
The priests further defended Napoles, saying that Luy, as an active member of a religious group that values the importance of solitude and meditation, was on retreat and refrained from talking to them in the three months that he stayed in Bahay San Jose.
Luy claimed that while he was at the residence, he was not allowed to use the telephone and could not speak to any other people, including the security guards. Luy also said he was able to speak only to Ramirez twice during his captivity.
The trial on the serious illegal detention case against Napoles—a nonbailable offense—is going on at the Makati City Regional Trial Court.—With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy
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