• ‘Pork’ scam whistleblower placed in witness protection

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    JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday announced that P10-billion ”pork barrel” scam whistleblower Benhur Luy has been admitted into the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Witness Protection Program (WPP).

    De Lima said her office is always ready to protect witnesses like Luy.

    Luy implicated his former boss, Janet Lim Napoles of JLN Corp. for supposedly forming dummy non-government organizations (NGOs) as beneficiaries of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF).

    Aside from Luy, De Lima said, the agency will also provide protection to five other whistleblowers and their families.

    Luy’s lawyer Levito Baligod said there are several other potential whistleblowers but he did not elaborate.

    “One whistleblower has an active threat against her. A motorcycle-riding person allegedly followed her until she reached her house but we have already addressed that,” Baligod said.

    “We are now evaluating if she needs to be secured. We are also considering if they should apply with the WPP,” he added.

    Some of the potential witnesses to be given protection by the DOJ were supposedly made presidents of NGOs without their knowledge.

    The lawyer added that their statements have already been forwarded to the National Bureau of Investigation.

    “They were unaware of the operation of the foundation because it was allegedly controlled by Napoles,” Baligod said.

    Napoles had denied the allegations and said she is ready to face any investigation regarding the alleged release of some P10 billion in lawmakers’ pork barrel to ghost agencies.

    She accused Baligod of trying to extort P300 million from her in exchange for the dropping of the serious illegal detention charges they filed against her and her brother, Reynald.

    Probe COA too
    Meanwhile, Sen. Cynthia Villar said the Commission on Audit (COA) should also be investigated over the scam.

    Villar said it is surprising that the disbursement of the lawmakers’ PDAF was still hounded by anomalies despite strict auditing by COA.

    She lamented that COA is very strict in auditing “legitimate” projects identified by the lawmakers while it seems to be lax in identifying “ghost” projects.

    At the same time, Villar expressed opposition to the proposal to scrap the pork barrel saying that it is being used to help their indigent constituents.

    Sen. Nancy Binay and her father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, also rejected the proposal saying that the pork barrel could be useful in granting medical assistance to poor Filipinos.

    “The bulk of my PDAF will be allocated to medical assistance. Like me, I want to concentrate on hospitals for more funding,” the younger Binay said, adding that she has been receiving many requests for medical assistance even before the opening of the 16th Congress.

    The Vice President admitted that he also has a “pork barrel” which he uses to help senior citizens who need medical assistance.

    He said his P200 million pork barrel was allocated through former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile adding that the fund is not enough to grant all the requests for medical assistance.

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