Friday, April 4, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PORK | Where are the accused and the accusers?

By Ernie Reyes 
The online news portal of TV5
Enrile-Revilla-EstradaMANILA, Philippines — Senator Teofisto Guingona III on Tuesday announced the findings and recommendations of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s investigation into the pork barrel scam, which recommends criminal charges against three senators and several other persons.
So, where are the accused and their accusers?
Information gathered by shows two of the lawmakers, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., have gone abroad — Revilla on a Lenten pilgrimage to Jerusalem from which he has promised to return; Estrada reportedly left with his wife for a medical checkup in the US Wednesday last week and will be back after the Holy Week.
Congress is on Lenten break until next month.
The third lawmaker recommended for charges, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, is said to be vacationing in his home province, Cagayan.
All three senators, as well as the other personalities mentioned in the Blue Ribbon committee’s findings, are already facing complaints of plunder filed by the Department of Justice before the Office of the Ombudsman.
All three, who have been accused by whistleblowers Benhur Luy, Ruby Tuason and Dennis Cunanan of pocketing hundreds of millions of pesos in kickbacks for allegedly helping funnel off billions of pesos of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund to bogus nongovernmental organizations supposedly set up by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, who allegedly engineered the scam, have denied the charges.
Tuason, the socialite who admitted being a “bagwoman” for the embezzled funds, left for the US after testifying at the eighth hearing of the Blue Ribbon committee.
At that hearing, she said she personally delivered kickbacks for Estrada to his residence in Greenhills and his Senate office.
Tuason also told the panel that she arranged a meeting with Enrile’s chief of staff, lawyer Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, at a restaurant to discuss the kickbacks for the then Senate president. She claimed Enrile joined them for coffee after she handed over his money.
However, she did not say she delivered money to Revilla.
Reyes, who resigned as Enrile’s chief of staff, reportedly left the country, her present whereabouts unknown, after Luy implicated her in the scam during his testimony at the Senate.
Whistleblowers said Reyes allegedly signed documents on behalf of Enrile. However, the senator has denied authorizing anyone from his office to collect any money and represent him in any transactions involving the pork barrel.
Reyes was also intimately linked to Enrile by the senator’s wife, Cristina, when she guested on the GMA7 talk show of former National Economic Development Authority director-general Solita Monsod, Walang Pasaway.
Enrile denied his wife’s accusation.
Cunanan, the former director general of the Technology Resource Center, one of the agencies through which the pork barrel funds were allegedly diverted, has been placed under provisional coverage of the Witness Protection Program and is believed to be in the country.
Testifying at the ninth pork barrel hearing, he said he personally “checked” with Estrada and Revilla on the veracity of their signatures in endorsement letters favoring Napoles organizations as conduits for their pork barrel funds.
He said he made phone calls to Estrada and Revilla, both actors, saying he was positive he had talked to the senators because he recognized their voices.
Cunanan even told the hearing that Revilla was an “idol” of his.
The rest of the accused
Lawyer Richard Cambe, chief of staff and political officer of Revilla, is believed to be in the country. However, sources said Cambe has not been reporting for work since he was implicated in the scam and charged with plunder.
Pauline Labayen, who used to work for Estrada, has resigned, a source said. She has also been charged with plunder.
Labayen, who took a leave of absence when the pork barrel scandal hit the headlines four months ago, tendered her resignation, effective September 16, 2013.
The DOJ said she was Estrada’s authorized representative to various agencies through which pork barrel funds were channeled to Napoles’ NGOs.
6 other major whistleblowers
The original whistleblowers — all former employees of Napoles — have been enrolled in the Witness Protection Program and are in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation:
Benhur Luy: president of the Social Development for Farmers Foundation, “which was designated (as a recipient of PDAF) by senators and congressmen.” Worked for Napoles, a relative, for 10 years, from September 2002 until she allegedly locked him up in a condominium unit on December 19, 2012 to prevent him from spilling the beans.
Gertrudes Luy: Benhur’s mother, who said she was hired by Napoles in 1990 as the nanny of the businesswoman’s children and named president, supposedly without her knowledge, of Bukiring Tanglaw, which she said was involved in another scam involving the government’s share of revenues from the Malampaya Natural Gas Project. Worked for Napoles until December 2012.
Gertrudes said she received deliveries of millions of pesos in cash made by JLN Corp. employees to Napoles’ apartment at the posh Pacific Plaza Towers in Bonifacio Global City. When the bags and boxes of money would not fit in Napoles’ bedroom, Gertrudes said they would put this in the bathtub.
Merlina Sunas: project coordinator of JLN Corp. Worked for Napoles from 1997 to December 2012. Was named president of the People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation in 2003. She also admitted suggesting in 2007 that a first cousin, Nemencio Pablo Jr., be named president — without his knowledge — of the Agriculture and Economic Program for Farmers Inc.
Pablo, an overseas Filipino worker in Australia, is among the 38 respondents in the plunder and malversation complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation before the Office of the Ombudsman
Marina Sula: former finance officer of JLN Corp. and president of Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation until August 2013. Began working for Napoles in 1997. Her task was to form NGOs and corporations and take care of their licensing and registration. She also kept the records to Napoles’ many properties, which she listed down in a “red book.”
Mary Arlene Baltazar: Former JLN bookkeeper, tasked with the filing and payments to BIR, Philhealth and SSS. Was also named president of theKaupdanan Para sa Mangunguma Foundation. She helped shred documents to the NGOs of which Luy and Sunas were listed as presidents.
Simonette Briones: president of the Countrywide Agriculture and Economic Development Foundation from 2009-2013 but not employed by JLN.

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