Some employees of JLN Corporation received cars and were able to go on trips abroad, pork barrel scam witness Marina Sula told the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division on Tuesday.
Sula testified during bail hearings of her former boss Janet Lim-Napoles and of former Rep. Edgar Valdez of the Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC) in a plunder case related to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.
At one point in the hearing, Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo asked Sula if they have a car plan and she said that during their anniversary in 2009, Napoles “gave us an Innova. Those who are long-time employees.”
There were three of them who each got a car, identifying the other two as Merlina Suñas and Fernando Ramirez.
Sula said Napoles paid for the vehicles by installment at Metrobank.
When further asked, she told the court that scam whistleblower Benhur Luy was given a Honda CRV.
Gesmundo then asked what other incentives Napoles gave them and if they as employees were sent abroad.
“Just once in Hong Kong,” Sula replied, “She asked for pledges from lawmakers.”
“O, pupunta ng Hong Kong ang mga empleyado ko, baka gusto mong magbigay ng pocket money sa kanila [Oh, my employees are going to Hong Kong, you might want to give them some pocket money],” she quoted Napoles as telling the lawmakers who supposedly went to their office.
Sula, however, said she cannot recall who these lawmakers were and when they went to their office.
Gesmundo told her, “You should remember, that was your first trip…”
Sula then explained that the Hong Kong trip was followed by trips to Singapore and Thailand out of their own bonuses.
The matter was raised as Napoles’ camp quizzed the witness on the sums she received during her employment.
“Why did you not resign?” defense lawyer Lanee David asked at one point.
“Why would I resign when I need a job and I don’t know if I can find another job?” Sula answered.
She also told the court when asked that at first she received P6,000 a month starting in 1997 that rose to P8,000 a month as basic salary in 2002.
Napoles would sometimes give P1,000 to P2,000 as incentive, Sula said.
“Did you at any point in time sit down and ask yourself why you were doing these illegal acts?” Gesmundo later asked Sula.
Sula said that outside the office, she, Luy, Merlina Suñas, Arlene Baltazar, Evelyn de Leon, John Raymund de Asis and Eulogio Rodriguez discussed the matter but they were afraid of what would happen to them.
“Tandaan ninyo, ang mga kausap ko ay malalaking tao [Remember, the people I deal with are influential people],” Sula quoted Napoles as telling them.
Further on in the hearing, David asked Sula how much were the commissions she received as president of the non-government organization (NGO) Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (MAMFI) from 2004 to 2013.
“I cannot recall Ma’m, it has been a long time,” said the witness, who added that she cannot recall how much were the commissions she received as the one in charge of the NGO Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation (CARED).
The defense then pointed out that Sula, during a bail hearing of Napoles as Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s co-accused in a plunder case pending before the court’s Third Division, testified that she received P2 million to P3 million from 2004 to 2009 as the officer of MAMFI and P1 million to P1.5 million as the one in charge of CARED.
David then asked her why she was unable to recall.
“Sa sunod-sunod na pag-upo ko sa hearing ‘di ko na po matandaan ung sinabi ko before [With my consecutive attendance at the hearings I can no longer recall what I said before],” Sula said.
She later also explained that she said she cannot recall but that she was asked to give an estimate.
“Dito kasi pinapakita natin yung sinasabi niya talagang hula-hula lang kaya nga hindi na niya maalala ung mga sinabi niya sa mga previous testimonies niya… Iba ung sinasabi niya roon iba ung sinasabi niya rito [Here, we are showing that her statements are just guesses that is why she cannot recall what she said in her previous testimonies… What she said before is different from what she is saying here],” Stephen David, also a Napoles’ lawyer, told reporters after the hearing.
He said, “Hindi totoo ung sinasabi nila e. Sila talaga ung nagpapatakbo ng mga NGOs e. Sila yun e. Isa lang, simple lang ang tanong, buksan niyo ang bank accounts ninyo nang makita ng bayan. Wag kayong magtago kay ‘utos ni Mrs. Napoles,’ [What they are saying is not true. They are the ones who truly run the NGOs. It was them.
The question is simple, Open your bank accounts so the people will see. Don’t hide behind ‘Mrs. Napoles’ instructions’].”
Napoles’ former employees-turned pork scam witnesses have said they were only following her instructions.