Napoles faces senators today

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WILL Janet Lim-Napoles, the woman at the center of the multi-billion pork barrel scam, tell all when she faces senators for the first time today?

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All eyes will be on Napoles when the Senate Blue Ribbon panel holds its sixth hearing on the Priority Development Assistance fund (PDAF) controversy. The jailed businesswoman has been accused of siphoning the pork barrel of several lawmakers through her bogus non-government organizations (NGOs).

Blue Ribbon chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd is hoping Napoles will disclose all that she knows of the pork barrel scam, including the names of lawmakers with whom she worked with.

But the camp of Napoles had said she will invoke her right against self-incrimination.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Napoles might even turn the tables on her accusers.

Napoles’ former employees, including Benhur Luy, will also be at the hearing.

In the previous hearings, senators heard the testimonies of officials of the Commission on Audit (COA) and the so-called whistleblowers who implicated Napoles and several members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, including senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr., and Jinggoy Estrada to the anomaly.

The three senators have voluntarily stayed away from the proceedings.

COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan said legislators are the ones who identify the NGOs that will implement projects funded by their pork barrel.

She presented a summary of the COA special audit report covering the PDAF disbursements of lawmakers from 2007 to 2009. She also showed documents signed either by lawmakers or their representatives concerning various PDAF allocations to NGOs, indicating that legislators are aware of the transactions.

Tan named seven of the eight Napoles NGOs found to have received PDAF allocations from senators and congressmen amounting to more than P1.7 billion: the Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (AEPFFI); Agriculture Para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc. (APMFI); Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development (CARED); Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc (MAMFI); People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc. (POPDFI); Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI) and Social Development Program for Farmers Foundations, Inc (SDPFFI).

Tan also pointed to Sen. Gregorio Honasan as among the senators who allotted a portion of their PDAF to the questionable NGOs.

The senators denied having transactions with the NGOs and said their signatures could have been forged.

But a former official of National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor), one of the implementing agencies, told the Senate panel that the legislators were fully aware of the projects implemented by their chosen NGOs.

Rhodora Mendoza, former vice president for administration and finance of Nabcor, said that not only did the legislators endorse NGOs, they also signed the liquidation reports of the organizations which paved the way for the release of succeeding funds.

Mendoza said Revilla, Estrada and Enrile were among the lawmakers who released funds to the Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc (MAMFI), the People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation, Inc. (POPDFI) and the Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation, Inc. (SDPFFI).

She said she never suspected any irregularities in the transactions made by the NGOs because the organizations complied with all the liquidation requirements.

Luy, the principal witness in the pork barrel scam, said the implementing agencies also receive kickbacks from every transaction made between NGOs linked to Napoles and the legislators.

Luy said Napoles also had contacts at the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the agency that approves and releases pork funds.

He said that lawmakers offered their PDAF to Napoles in exchange for a 50 percent kickback from the amount released to NGOs.

Napoles will prepare and gather the needed documents such as endorsement letters, memorandum of agreement and liquidation papers which will then be signed by legislators or their representatives.

The legislators will then send to the DBM, through the chairmen of Finance committee in the Senate, their project request.

It is at this stage that the lawmakers their kickback.

Luy said the implementing agency also receives a 10-percent cut of the project cost. The remaining 40 percent is pocketed by Napoles.

Women used as dummies by Napoles also appeared at the Senate.

Marina Sula, who worked as finance clerk for Napoles, was made head of the Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc (MAMFI), one of the NGOs used by lawmakers to channel their PDAF funds.

She said she also doubled as a courier, bringing bags of money to representatives of lawmakers.

Sula said she gave a bag full of cash to Ruby Tuason, who allegedly had connection with former president and now Manila mayor Joseph Estrada.

Merlina Suñas, a former project coordinator of Napoles, and Arlene Baltazar, former bookkeeper, said they stayed with Napoles because they believed that their boss had many connections with government officials who will protect her.

It is doubtful if Napoles will admit the claims of her former employees since she had claimed in an earlier affidavit that she never transacted business with the government or any of its agencies.

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