The Benhur Luy files | Inquirer News

The Benhur Luy files

Postscript: Setting the truth and Benhur Luy free

PIGSTY The room where reporter Nancy C. Carvajal and the research team of Minerva Generalao, Kate Pedroso, Marielle Medina, Kat de Villa, Jaris Villavicencio and Karl Angelica Ocampo (not in photo) worked exceedingly hard on the Benhur files KIMBERLY DELA CRUZ

It is the modern newspaper’s duty not merely to report information, but to organize it into coherent strands fit to be called news. No journalist today can outrace the speed with which social media brings information to the fore, but a storyteller’s skill is still required to make sense of this deluge of information.

It was in that spirit that the Inquirer’s 13-part report told the story of whistle-blower Benhur Luy, the linchpin of the pork barrel exposé.


The Inquirer has been asked two conflicting questions: “Why only now?” “Why not later, after the filing of charges?”


“Why only now?” Because it was only recently that the National Bureau of Investigation submitted Benhur’s hard disk in evidence to the Ombudsman and became part of the official record of the case.

“Why not wait?” Because the disk’s authenticity and Benhur’s credibility have gone unquestioned in the frustratingly long wait for prosecution, and the Filipino public is entitled to hear his account. It is a newspaper’s duty to make it easier for the public to understand the scam’s intricate details and advance our journey to the truth, and to borrow columnist Randy David’s metaphor, to “connect the dots … in a complex landscape.”

We must, he says, take care on how we perform our roles: “Let the legal system do its work quietly. Let today’s political players jostle with one another in their bid to give every bit of information a distinct political spin. Let the mass media perform their function of marking today from yesterday by telling the news, and giving us the tools to anticipate what is to come. And let us all be vigilant.”

Why only now?

The answer to “why only now?” is simpler. Even when public outrage was at its peak at the so-called Million People March at Manila’s Rizal Park last August, even the most zealous advocates wanted prosecutorial agencies to quietly investigate. Opening up Benhur’s records should speed up that prosecution, but not preempt it.

And as a practical matter, the sheer scale of the files means they could not have been released immediately, especially not in their raw form. Their great sensitivity demanded we limit the staff members handling them. Indeed, after months of sifting, reorganizing and cross-checking, the Inquirer staff has done everything humanly possible under the circumstances to verify Benhur’s information but the result falls short of the ideal. Ideally, all persons mentioned should have been contacted to get their side in advance. Regrettably, this couldn’t be done in all cases. The Inquirer has taken every effort to ensure that all replies and denials by those implicated will be published, and now reiterates that assurance. Indeed, last week we published the denials by two congressmen even before we actually got to publish their names.


Why not later?

It is more difficult to answer “why not later?” In addition to the prosecution’s glacial pace, the Inquirer felt it was imperative to let Benhur’s files speak through it after so many versions of the so-called Napolist surfaced, confusing the public and threatening to derail the investigation. Indeed veteran columnists Amando Doronila and Conrado de Quiros early on warned of a déjà vu of the Harry Stonehill whitewash in 1962, of how the investigation of a patronage network was hushed after it implicated almost everyone all the way to Malacañang.

The Inquirer will not stand idly by when it already held the Benhur disk in its hands, and there was no reason to sit on that information. Benhur’s credibility had been tested repeatedly, before the NBI and in the televised Senate hearings. His day-to-day record of Napoles’ transactions was not anonymously given to us or—to echo the excuses of government prosecutors in the Corona impeachment—furtively dropped into a mailbox or given by a “small lady.” Benhur has assured us that he will explain and interpret all his entries when called back by the Senate.

In attempting to organize the records for our stories, the Inquirer agonized over whether to publish every name on the hard disk, or to edit out those that were manifestly minor. There were even names mentioned only indirectly through middlemen. Under other conditions, the editors would have been minded to omit them to keep the focus on the main story and spare from aggravation those who had been mentioned. Thus the editors made it clear in our reports when the link to Napoles was rather tenuous or the transactions prima facie innocent. Moreover, a few weeks ago before the Benhur disk was made public, the editors deliberately did not mention one broadcast journalist because there was no “paper trail” like Benhur’s records that established the purported link.

[We have deferred publication of the names of more than 100 local government officials because it’s next to impossible to determine between those who were merely used by Napoles and those who actually benefited from her bogus operations.—Ed.]


Our dilemma

We faced that dilemma last year, when we published verbatim the transcript of alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles’ appearance at our offices, even when Napoles mentioned someone related to an Inquirer staff member. This time as well, the Inquirer decided to report all the names in Benhur’s files, and for the same reason. The reader should not have any ground to suspect that the newspaper edited out some names to favor this or that politician or personality. That was the public’s fear about the various “Napolists,” and Benhur’s files must rise above the same suspicion.

In this 13-part investigative series, the Inquirer has not been motivated by any malice whatsoever. It made a reader-friendly summary of the 20,000 computer files, the best that can be done under the circumstances, and has published the replies and denials of those concerned.

The Inquirer opened the files of Benhur Luy to enable the Filipino public to decide for itself, and to discharge the responsibility that a free press owes to the nation that gave it that freedom.


Luy confirms files in Philippine Daily Inquirer


Mystery agents got P235M


Doctor: ‘Private, intimate contact’ may have caused Napoles’ bleeding

Janet Napoles and the pork barrel scam

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TAGS: Benhur Luy, pork scam

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