Lawyer told Napoles to leave no paper trail
Do it as slick as a whistle.
A lawyer had advised detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles to refrain from issuing written orders to her employees regarding her pork barrel transactions, a whistle-blower told the Sandiganbayan on Friday.
Continuing her testimony at Napoles’ bail hearing in the antigraft court’s Third Division, Marina Sula identified the lawyer as a certain Marciano “Rocky” Delson, who, she said, told her former boss to avoid leaving a paper trail of the projects funded by the pork barrel of lawmakers.
Sula said Delson was legal adviser to the Napoles-owned JLN Corp.
A check made by the Inquirer showed that Delson is a lawyer for Progressive Development Corp., the retail and restaurant arm of the Araneta Group, the group of companies owned by the family of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
He is also the vice dean and a faculty member of San Beda College of Law.
Napoles’ NGO mentor
In his testimony in the bail hearing of detained Sen. Bong Revilla, primary whistle-blower Benhur Luy also identified Delson as one of two mentors of Napoles who taught her how to organize spurious foundations to siphon off money from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a pork barrel that financed legislators’ projects.
Sula, whose damning disclosures made Napoles cry in anger, claimed she personally heard and witnessed the lawyer giving instructions to Napoles at the JLN office at Discovery Suites in Ortigas Center, Pasig City.
Answering questions during her redirect examination handled by Ombudsman prosecutor Jennifer Agustin-Fe, Sula admitted that she did not receive any written instructions from Napoles regarding the dealings of the fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that Napoles founded.
“She did not issue written instructions or documents, especially to the presidents of the NGOs because she did not want to be identified as the one who owned and controlled the NGOs,” Sula said in Filipino.
Asked by Fe why Napoles did not issue written orders, she said: “She only gave us verbal instructions because that was the advice of Attorney Rocky.”
“There you go again. You should not give written instructions because that could prove that you have control of the NGOs,” she quoted Delson as saying.
‘Butt of jokes’
Sula, who was smiling at times during her testimony, said Napoles’ refusal to give them written orders had become “the butt of jokes” in the office.
Seated a few meters away from the witness stand, Napoles burst into laughter several times during Sula’s three-hour testimony.
Her female security escorts from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology were also seen laughing after Napoles whispered something to them.
“Huh? Liar,” said Napoles, who was also heard saying, “Shameless.”
A security officer approached the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam to remind her to observe proper decorum in court.
Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Napoles said she could not keep from laughing “because it was obvious that she (Sula) was telling lies.”
“The truth is I just held back my tears because last week she was maligning a justice and now it’s Attorney Rocky. You can ask around who Attorney Rocky is and you will learn that he’s not that kind of person,” Napoles said.
The justice Napoles was referring to was Gregory Ong, the sacked Sandiganbayan associate justice who Sula claimed was Napoles’ “contact” in the antigraft court and was instrumental in her acquittal in a graft case filed against her in 2001 involving alleged irregularities in the purchase of 500 Kevlar helmets for the Philippine Marines.
“If her own sibling had filed a qualified theft against [her], that [only shows her character]. She might accuse me of ordering her relative to file that case against her,” Napoles said.
Just a friend
Asked if Delson was her legal adviser as Sula had claimed, Napoles said he was just a “friend.”
She said one of Delson’s children was a member of a church choir that her family used to support.
Associate Justice Samuel Martires warned Sula that she could be sued for mentioning the names of private individuals while narrating the elaborate scheme that Napoles allegedly employed to embezzle funds from the state coffers.
“You have this habit of name-dropping persons. Are you sure you heard (Delson) give that advice to Napoles?” Martires asked Sula.
The witness replied, “Yes, your honor.”
Asked how many times she heard Delson speak to Napoles about the matter, Sula said it started in 2004, when the Office of the Ombudsman brought charges against Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Inc., a foundation she used to head.
Sula also told the court that Delson was one of Napoles’ lawyers in the Kevlar case in the Sandiganbayan. Napoles was cleared in the case in 2010.
“I know this because she was the associate of Attorney Edna Batacan,” Sula said. The information apparently surprised the three justices on the court and Napoles’ defense lawyers.
“Are you sure? How did you know that?” Fe asked Sula.
Sula replied that Batacan, who is also a law professor at San Beda, told her that Delson was her “associate.”
Not completely immune
It was at that point that Martires again warned Sula. “Your immunity from suit covered only [matters] concerning the PDAF. You are not immune from perjury or other cases that these persons may file,” Martires said.
Stephen David, one of Napoles’ lawyers, told the court that they might sue the witness for perjury.
But Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, chair of the Third Division, ordered him not to make such comments after Fe moved to strike out from the court records David’s manifestation.
During a break in the hearing, Sula was heard discussing with the government prosecutors the circumstances of her testimony about Delson and Batacan.
Besides Delson’s supposed involvement in Napoles’ activities, Sula admitted that her family was still using a Toyota Innova owned by Napoles’ company.
She said the Innova was one of the vehicles belonging to Napoles’ assets that the Manila Regional Trial Court had frozen.
Sula, however, gave conflicting accounts of how the vehicle ended up in her possession.
In her previous testimony, Sula said Napoles gave her the vehicle early last year while she and her coworkers were shredding documents covering JLN’s pork barrel transactions.
On Friday, she told the court that the vehicle was given to her by Napoles as an “incentive” during the anniversary of JLN in October 2009.
She also claimed that she had paid almost half of the vehicle’s cost using her earnings as president of one of Napoles’ fake foundations.
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