Manhunt for PDAF scam ‘brains’ widenedAugust 16, 2013 10:29 pm
THE Court of Appeals on Friday ordered over 100 bank accounts of Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged brains in the pork barrel scandal, frozen.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the court issued the freeze order based on the petition of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
The order is effective for six months, also covers the accounts of Napoles’ companies, husband Jaime Garcia, and their children and relatives, De Lima said.
The AMLC, through the Office of the Solicitor General, said in its petition the assets might have been involved in the P10-billion controversy that is the subject of a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) probe.
Covered by the order are Napoles’ Metrobank Account No.
073-3-07352390-8, where several fake non-government organizations supposedly deposited some P53 million from the pork barrel of lawmakers and government agencies.
It was reported that aside from her liquid assets, Napoles reportedly owns 28 properties and 30 vehicles, including a BMW, Porsche and Hummer, all luxury cars.
A warrant is out for the arrest of Napoles, who is charged with illegally detaining Benhur Luy, who exposed Napoles’ involvement in the PDAF scam.
Authorities could not find Napoles or her brother Reynald Lim in any of their known addresses in Metro Manila.
Several state agencies are involved in the hunt for the siblings.
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) have orders to stop Napoles and Lim from leaving the country.
“We have standing order to turn-over Napoles to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police if ever she attempts to leave the country using airports,” the bureau’s Airport Operations Division chief Marie Vitan said.
Vitan said more photographs of Napoles will be posted in Immigration counters at airports and seaports.
An Immigration official who refused to be named said Lim tried to leave the country twice this month.
On Friday, a lawyer for Napoles asked the Court of Appeals to stop the serving of the arrest warrant on the businesswoman and her brother.
Lorna Kapunan wants the Appeals court to stop the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) from issuing the warrant, accusing the Makati court of abusing its discretion.
Kapunan said Makati RTC Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda issued the arrest order despite pending motions from Napoles for judicial determination of probable cause.
Kapunan said the Department of Justice (DOJ) erred when it reversed a resolution clearing Napoles in the case despite weak evidence presented by the NBI.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) is ready assist the NBI in the hunting Napoles, PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac said on Friday.
The chief of PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Director Francisco Uyami, said can be arrested even by an ordinary citizen.
The NBI has tapped even the Philippine Coast Guard to help find Napoles.
The Coast Guard spokesman, Cdr. Armand Balilo, said on Friday that the Coast Guard has responded to the NBI request by issuing a “lookout bulletin order” to all Coast Guard-manned ports in the country.
There were reports that Napoles is aboard a private yacht, something the Coast Guard will check, Balilo said.
To speed up the arrest of Napoles, Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco, the secretary-general of the United Nationalist Alliance, suggested that the Justice department offer a cash reward.
“If they really want to capture her [Napoles] captured, they should give a cash reward for information. For all her wealth, Napoles would surely have a throng of bodyguards. The citizens cannot come after her easily, that’s for sure,” Tiangco said in a text message.
Sen. Miriam Santiago said lawmakers involved in the pork barrel scandal might have persuaded Napoles to go into hiding.
Santiago said Napoles may have planned her escape long ago, and that she has been making herself visible for the past few days to catch authorities off guard.
“She may also been actively persuaded by some of those senators…to disappear for her own good, with maybe a quid pro quo arrangement, you can never tell,” Santiago told reporters.
At least five senators and 23 congressmen were implicated in the controversy for allegedly allocating a portion of their PDAF to ghost projects facilitated by several bogus nongovernmental organizations that Napoles created.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd supported calls for a Senate inquiry into the scam because Congress has the duty to oversee the spending of public funds.
Pimentel said the overwhelming clamor by the people to get to the bottom of the most damaging controversy to rock Congress should be heeded to erase public suspicions that legislators are “protecting their own.”
Former military rebel colonel Ariel Quirubin described Napoles, who is his kumare, as “just a struggling supplier to the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) before.”
“I would be doing a disservice to the people if I do not tell that she is only a struggling supplier to the AFP. Now they are saying she was wealthy even before,” Quirubin told the weekly forum at the Balitaan sa Hotel Rembrandt.
He called for a comprehensive investigation to determine the source of Napoles’ wealth.
He said Napoles must be given protective custody, because there might be attempts to kill her to stop her from revealing the identities of those involved in the scam.
Speaking at the same forum, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the pork barrel scam is the chance that “we can deliver the fatal blow” to abolish pork barrel.
In a press conference on Friday, Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said the disappearance of Napoles and her brother means they are guilty.
”If you have nothing to hide then, you have nothing to fear,” she said, citing that “the statement that flight is an indication of guilt.”
On the proposal for a bounty for Napoles, Valte said, it is a matter for the DOJ to determine, but added: We have no problem with it.”
With Reports From Benjie L. Vergara, Anthony Vargas, Sheila Manalac, Llanesca T. Panti, Jefferson Antiporda, Jing Villamente, Catherine S. Valente And Robertzon Ramirez