Funny how Janet Lim Napoles of the JLN Group of Companies turns up again and again in the investigation of high-stake corruption cases.
First she figured out with her husband, retired Army Major Jaime Napoles, in the P3.8 million graft case in connection with the supply of substandard Kevlar helmets to the AFP. Then there was that infamous P728 million scam in Agriculture, of which investigation she admitted under intense questioning by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that she had set up dummy corporations to serve as conduit for the money.
Now this mother of all scams: the diversion of Priority Development Assistance Fund in the amount of P10 billion over a period of ten years to her various bank accounts.
The woman must be the unluckiest person on earth, pure as rain but a victim of dark forces in the universe. Or she just lives a charmed life, raiding the national treasury of an already impoverished nation without a case being brought against her and her co-conspirators.
As she did in the fertilizer scam, Ms. Napoles, according to her former associates, sets up bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to receive funds from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) after a senator or a congressman has approved the purported project.
In his deposition submitted to the NBI, Ben Hur K. Luy, a relative and, before their falling out, a trusted assistant, states the NGO then deposits the money to Ms. Napoles’ bank accounts.
One time, Mr. Luy adds, the money he withdrew under Ms. Napoles’ instructions was so huge—tens of millions of pesos—they had to lay it down on the bed and in the bathtub of the master’s bedroom in Ms. Napoles’ condominium unit.
But Ms. Napoles gets to keep only 40 percent of the amount as her share. She gives 60 percent to the senator or congressman.
Merlina Pablo Sunas, another whistle blower, corroborates Mr. Luy’s statement, claiming that Ms. Napoles persuades senators and congressmen to sign away their PDAF or pork barrel allocations to the NGOs she has set up.
According to Ms. Sunas, one such NGO—the People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation—received the pork barrel allocations of two senators, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Loren Legarda.
Ms. Sunas should know. She is the president, appointed to the position by Ms. Napoles, despite her lack of qualifications to manage a multi-million company.
From time to time we hear of the cost of public works projects inflated so that the contractor can still make a fair return after giving the senator or the congressman a 20 percent commission for allowing him the use of the legislator’s pork barrel “for poverty alleviation” or “medicine for the poor” or “one classroom for every province” and such noble endeavors.
Oh, but that was for politicians who still have some decency and conscience left in them.
If we can believe the two whistle blowers (there are two others, both formerly connected with the JLN Group), the projects that Ms. Napoles deals with are only on paper, and the signatures of the supposed beneficiaries are all forged.
Four years ago, Kaudpanan para sa Mangunguna Foundation became the recipient of an P89.2 million fund from the government, supposedly for distribution to 2,500 fishermen in Masantol, Pampanga. The fishermen listed as beneficiaries have since denied ever having received a net, a boat, or any fishing gear. Their signatures, they claim, have been forged.
It now turns out that Kaudpanan is one of Ms. Napoles’ NGOs.
But the amount is chicken feed. One foundation cornered and got to dispose of the P900 million Malampaya Fund. We can only guess how JLN Group managed that one, but the owner has connections in high places.
Under that scheme, P10 billion ov er ten years is a cinch. Remember each of the 24 senators is entitled to P200 million PDAF a year, while each of the 300 congressmen gets P70 million a year. The amount could increase depending on the legislator’s closeness to the President, who approves the release.
It’s the mother of all scams, indeed. Nothing will come out of the investigation though. No high government official or their cohorts involved in high-profile corruption cases have ever been haled to court, much less found guilty.
Oh, Ms. Napoles is not living a charmed life. It’s just the way things are in this country.