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15 boxes of pork evidence in Philippine govt custody
Publication Date : 12-09-2013
The smoking gun comes from government agencies.
On Wednesday afternoon, 15 boxes of evidence and more than 2,000 pages of financial transactions purportedly detailing the extent of a 10-billion peso (US$224 million) racket involving state funds meant to ease rural poverty and ended in kickbacks over 10 years were submitted to the Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
The evidence that could implicate the senators—principally endorsements of questionable nongovernment organisations (NGOs)—would come from official records, according to a source who is privy to the investigations.
“The smoking gun that could pin down the senators comes from government agencies where these letters were sent,” said the source who talked to the Inquirer on condition of anonymity.
The source showed the Inquirer a letter of Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, a lawyer who was chief of staff of then Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, dated Feb 4, 2008, addressed to then Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap informing him that Enrile had allotted 25 million pesos of his PDAF to National AgriBusiness Corp. (Nabcor).
“The PDAF is for the implementation of various agribusiness, livelihood projects in different municipalities as per attached special allotment release order,” Reyes said in her letter.
“We wish to implement these projects through Nabcor as attached agency of DA (Department of Agriculture),” she said.
In the same letter, Reyes said that her deputy chief of staff, Jose Antonio Evangelista, was assigned the authority “to sign and follow up the project to ensure proper and timely implementation.”
Another document showed Evangelista’s letter to then Nabcor president Allan Javellana informing him that Enrile’s office was designating the People’s Organisation Progress and Development Foundation (POPDF) as the implementing NGO for the project that would be financed with the senate president’s pork barrel allocation.
The letter said the POFDF, an agency controlled by Napoles, was “a duly registered nongovernment organisation” and should be “your conduit in the implementation of the said project.”
Evangelista added: “May we humbly request your good office to assist and facilitate the processing of the documents for the smooth implementation of the said projects at the soonest possible time?”
A stamp on the document showed that Nabcor received Evangelista’s letter on Feb. 11, 2008, and was paid on March 11, 2008.
A handwritten check number appears on the lower part of the letter.
The evidence came from 10 whistle-blowers—all former employees of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the channelling of the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the government’s share in the Malampaya oil fields to ghost projects, according to their lawyer, Levito Baligod.
The papers will be used in the filing of plunder charges against Napoles and 13 other people, including three senators and “conduits,” in the Ombudsman later in the week. Another 40 people are likely to face malversation charges.
Another document dated March 23, 2012, showed that Enrile had confirmed in his letter to Carmela Perez, associate commissioner-special services sector of the Commission on Audit (COA), that he had authorised Reyes and Evangelista to sign documents in his behalf.
“We acknowledge receipt of your letter regarding the government-wide performance audit on PDAF projects,” Enrile said in his letter.
He said that his PDAF projects, which he had endorsed, were assigned to National Livelihood Development Corp., Department of Social Welfare and Development-National Capital Region, Nabcor and the Technology Resource Centre.
“The set of letters was similar to those other senators and congressmen had written,” the source said. He said those letters were also sent to implementing agencies such as the DA, Department of Agrarian Reform and COA.
Under heavy guard, the 15 boxes of documents were unloaded and brought to the NBI special task force office.
Baligod confirmed to the Inquirer that all accused senators “received their kickbacks through personal delivery of cash.”
“No senator received a check or through a fund transfer,” he said.
Baligod said the evidence submitted by the whistle-blowers would ensure airtight cases against Napoles and her alleged cohorts.
“It took us some time to finish everything because we want to make sure that our evidence will stand judicial scrutiny,” Baligod said.
‘We have a solid case’
“We are not here just to ruin the reputation of anybody because for all of us, our reputation is the most precious thing that we have, more precious than the wealth that this world can offer. That’s why we are very careful once we accuse somebody that we have a solid case to stand on,” the lawyer added.
Baligod said the affidavit of six whistle-blowers covers only the PDAF and served as the first batch of affidavits.
“This case is only for the PDAF. Next will be on the Malampaya funds,”Baligod said.
He explained that the evidence submitted included a matrix of the financial transactions between Napoles’ foundations and the lawmakers from 2004 to 2010 based on the records of the principal whistle-blower, Benhur Luy.
Baligod said that the joint affidavits of the six whistle-blowers were supported by documents relating to fund transfers and letters to banks authorising the debit of money from the accounts of foundations to the accounts of the legislators in some cases.
He said several congressmen named in the affidavits received kickbacks through checks and bank transactions.
In his letter to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, transmitting the documentary evidence and the sworn affidavits of the whistle-blowers, Baligod expressed his appreciation and gratitude to her and President Benigno Aquino III for their support “throughout the evidence-gathering phase of this investigation.”