Suñas: Abad is Napoles’ client, friend
A friend and a client.
This was how whistleblower Merlina Suñas on Friday described the relationship of Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad with detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Continuing her testimony in Napoles’ bail hearing at the Sandiganbayan Third Division, Suñas disclosed that former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel was among the first group of lawmakers who had allegedly funneled their allocations from the pork barrel, officially known as the priority development assistance fund (PDAF), to the bogus foundations run by Napoles.
She also said that the head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), Joel Villanueva, also had transactions with Napoles from 2007 to 2009.
Sought for comment, Abad denied Suñas’ allegation that he had business transactions with Napoles from 1997 to 1999, insisting that Napoles herself had admitted in her own affidavit that they only met in 2000.
“That’s absolutely not true. At the height of the PDAF controversy, this allegation was first made and we responded by saying there was no truth to that claim,” Abad said in a text message.
He added that Suñas had previously retracted her statement linking him to Napoles, who arrived at the hearing under heavy guard by Bureau of Corrections personnel and wearing the mandatory orange convict prison garb.
In an affidavit she submitted last year, Napoles said Abad, while serving as a congressman of Batanes, had used the Batanes Electric Cooperative (Batanelco) as the implementing arm for a P10-million project under his PDAF. This was denied by Abad and Batanelco.
Villanueva, in a text message to the Inquirer yesterday, denied knowing Napoles or Suñas, stressing that his conscience was clear and that he had never been corrupt.
Villanueva said in Filipino that he “never had any transaction with them.”
“Ever since my name was mentioned [in the scam], there has [not] yet been a single piece of evidence that showed that I was involved in any form of corruption,” said the Tesda head who is a close friend of President Aquino.
Suñas appeared composed as she was confronted by Napoles’ lawyer, Dennis Buenaventura, concerning her role in the scheme which Napoles had allegedly cooked up to funnel billions of pesos in congressional pork barrel funds to her fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs), with the lawmakers as her accomplices.
But the witness began to stutter when the defense counsel asked her about the alleged role of Abad in the multibillion-peso scam which involved a number of former and incumbent lawmakers.
Holding a copy of an affidavit Suñas had executed before the Office of the Ombudsman, Buenaventura noted that Suñas had named Abad as a “client” of Napoles before the PDAF scam came out in the media.
However, Suñas had clarified that Abad did not participate in the PDAF transactions with the Napoles NGOs when she testified separately at the bail hearings of detained Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla.
The prosecution tried to block Buenaventura’s line of questioning, arguing that the information he was trying to elicit from Suñas were not part of the redirect examination.
“But this goes to the meat of the credibility or incredibility| of the witness,” the defense lawyer told the court. With Nikko Dizon
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