PORK barrel scam witness Benhur Luy is ready to blow the lid off the P728-million fertilizer fund scam which, according to him, was a “precursor” of the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) misuse, both of which were designed by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
According to Luy’s lawyer Raji Mendoza, his client has informed him that he will spill the beans on the farm inputs scam “soon” after the recent release of the Commission on Audit (COA) report on the anomaly, to which about 140 former members of the House of Representatives were linked.
“The fertilizer scam is a precursor [of]the pork barrel scam. He [Luy] said JLN [Napoles’ initials] was involved. He will give his affidavit to the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] soon,” Mendoza said on Thursday during a roundtable with editors, columnists and reporters of The Manila Times.
The lawyer claimed that it took time for Luy to reveal what he knows about the fertilizer scam because of the lack of a COA report to back his allegations. The affidavit will be submitted to the NBI and the Justice department is expected to file the appropriate charges against Napoles with the Office of the Ombudsman.
“Wala pang date pero puwede nang simulan kasi may COA report na, [No date has been set but the process can start, given that the COA report is now out], ” Mendoza said. “This is part of the investigation conducted” on Napoles’ Jocris Trading, which supplied “overpriced” fertilizers to three foundations that were set up by Napoles herself —Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (MAMFI), Philippine Agri and Social Economic Development Foundation Inc. (PASEDF) and People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc. (POPDF), he added.
“JLN was the supplier of organic fertilizers through Jocris Trading and the product was Prime EC. These three foundations acted as recipients of the supply,” Mendoza quoted Luy as saying.
Interestingly, MAMFI, PASEDF and POPDF are among the many bogus non-government organizations and foundations used to siphon off PDAF or pork barrel funds. The same foundations were used in the PDAF scam after Napoles skirted the fertilizer fund investigations.
The COA reported that in the questioned P330-million worth of fertilizers, two-thirds of it was allegedly overpriced.
The biggest amount cited by the auditors was a P123-million excess cost in the purchase of 166,781 bottles of Prime EC Foliar Liquid fertilizers. The COA found that it was overpriced by P717.50 per 300 milliliter bottle and P1,335 per 1 liter bottle.
Mendoza said Napoles, despite the investigations conducted by the Senate, even managed to continue the scheme on farm inputs because “maluwag [loose]ang COA guidelines [at the]time.”
In deciding to come out in the open and pin Napoles down on the fertilizer scam, Mendoza said Luy is determined to prove that Napoles was a “principal” player in the fertilizer scam.
“He will go with what is true,” the lawyer stressed.
With Luy’s new testimony, Mendoza said the Senate may reopen the case and conduct another and much deeper probe.
“They [Congress] can use creativity and reopen the fertilizer fund scam probe,” he pointed out.
Mendoza said Luy had “meticulously” kept records of transactions involving the supply of overpriced fertilizers and could identify documents used by COA in coming out with its report.
Luy’s lawyer said there is a “link” between the fertilizer scam and the pork barrel scam with the perpetrators of the PDAF scam learning lessons from the first, which was allegedly masterminded by former Agriculture Secretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante in 2004.
Napoles and her minions are said to have refined and enhanced the money-making scheme and even made them more aggressive.
The fertilizer scam was investigated by the Senate blue ribbon committee that pried into the P728 million in Department of Agriculture (DA) funds for the Ginintuang Masaganing Ani program.
The agricultural fund was allegedly used to bankroll the campaign of then-President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies during the May 2004 polls against the now late actor Fernando Poe, Jr.
The committee claimed that the fertilizer scam was “premeditated, systematic and agricultural theft.”
But in an eight-page decision signed on May 2 by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, the anti-graft agency junked the corruption case filed against the former president for lack of sufficient evidence.
The schemes used in the fertilizer scam and the current pork barrel controversy were similar, according to Mendoza.
During the Senate probe of the fertilizer scam, Napoles was summoned to appear twice by the committee but Arroyo then declared a state of national emergency at the height of anti-government protests. This prevented Napoles from appearing before the Senate.
Because of her non-appearance, Napoles was excluded from the blue ribbon and the Senate agriculture committee report that recommended the filing of plunder charges against Bolante, former Agriculture Secretary Luis Ramon “Cito” Lorenzo, former assistant secretary for field operations Ibarra Poliquit and several unnamed individuals and 6 private respondents.
Napoles, citing published reports, denied in her counter-affidavit in connection with the serious illegal detention case filed by Luy that she was involved in the fertilizer scam. Luy, according to Mendoza, now has the ammunition to prove his claim and charge Napoles for this separate crime.