MS 30th Anniversary XXX

Pork barrel scam: ‘Livelihood girls’ used as baits

Senator JV Ejercito on Thursday said attractive women were used to entice lawmakers into allocating their pork barrel to certain non-government organizations (NGOs) as two more witnesses linked Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada in the P10 billion pork barrel scam. Speaking at the Blue Ribbon Committee’s second public hearing on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), Ejercito said he remembered hearing stories about the so-called “livelihood girls” when he was a member of the House of Representatives.
The hearing continues. Senate President Franklin Drilon and Blue Ribbon committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III examine a document containing the signatures of senators and congressmen at the continuation of the Senate hearing on the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam. Lino Santos The hearing continues. Senate President Franklin Drilon and Blue Ribbon committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III examine a document containing the signatures of senators and congressmen at the continuation of the Senate hearing on the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam. Lino Santos
He said these attractive women would go to the offices of congressmen to convince them to channel their pork barrel to the NGOs they represented. He also asked the Commission on Audit to zero in on other organizations with operations similar to those of Janet Lim Napoles, who is accused of siphoning off billions of pesos into ghost projects. “I believe there are other Napoleses out there. I don’t believe that only those in the opposition are involved in this. The public should know everybody who has links (to the pork barrel scam), whether he is an ally or rival of the President,” Ejercito said. Former National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) president Alan Javellana and his former vice president for administration and finance Rhoda Mendoza named the three senators as among the lawmakers who had endorsed their PDAF to NGOs linked to Napoles. The three senators funneled their funds to Social Development Program for Farmers Foundations Inc., Magsasakang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc., and People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc., three of eight NGOs linked to Napoles. Javellana, who was Nabcor president from 2007 to 2009, said Senator Gregorio Honasan coursed his PDAF through Nabcor too but it did not go to the NGOs identified with Napoles. Mendoza corroborated Javellana’s testimony and said she was “very sure” that pork barrel scam whistle blower Benhur Luy went to the Nabcor office with endorsement letters from Revilla, Estrada and Enrile. The three senators have denied any involvement in the scam. Javellana said he had coffee with Napoles twice at the Discovery Suites in Ortigas to “brief” her on the corporation’s projects. When Guingona demanded an answer on why Napoles was “so special” that he gave her a briefing, Javellana said he viewed Napoles only as a potential investor. “We were looking for investors. It’s not only Napoles whom I met with,” he said. He said that during the two meetings, they never discussed any pork barrel-funded projects. He also admitted Luy was well known to him and transacted with his office. Javellana’s statement was consistent with a recent COA report that said Revilla, Enrile and Estrada transferred pork barrel funds, coursed through the Nabcor, to three Napoles NGOs. Enrile, Estrada and other minority senators said in a statement issued Wednesday that “it is not the responsibility of the legislators to ascertain the legitimacy of the NGOs,” and pointed an accusing finger at the implementing agencies. Mendoza told the Senate panel that Luy had introduced her to Napoles. “He even invited me to a thanksgiving mass. I met her (Napoles) once. I was invited to the thanksgiving mass in Discovery Suites,” Mendoza said. Aside from the three senators, Mendoza also identified 10 members of the House of Representatives who supposedly gave their pork barrel funds to Napoles NGOs. These were Reps. Conrado Estrella III, Erwin Chiongbian, Rodolfo Plaza, Victor Ortega, Samuel Dangwa, Edgar Valdez, Mark Douglas Cagas IV, Rizalina Lanete, Arthur Pingoy Jr. and Rodolfo Valencia. Javellana also told the senators he had no idea before that NGOs associated with Napoles were all bogus and questionable, as pointed out in the recent COA report. “I was really shocked and surprised to fund out these things. To the best of our abilities, we checked their SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] registration... Perhaps, we were really duped,” he said. He said they only relied on documentary requirements, and did not conduct field inspections on NGOs. “During that time, we were trying our best, with no malice at all, to forge partnerships with NGOs. We could have done better with due diligence, verifying all these things,” he said. Mendoza said most of the legislators signed the endorsement letters themselves while a few assigned somebody from their offices. Mendoza said she did not find anything suspicious about the transactions at the time because they all complied with the requirements. In a press briefing after the hearing, panel chairman Teofisto Guingona III said the documents showed the lawmakers who signed the liquidation of their pork releases had knowledge of the transactions. However, he conceded that it was not yet enough to pin down the legislators who had signed the documents, saying their signatures have yet to be authenticated. “The story is still unfolding,” he said. Also on Thursday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the government would go after the assets of Napoles and her family abroad, after whistleblowers said they had properties and bank accounts in the United States. “Our next target is to run after those assets. We are availing of existing mechanisms,” De Lima said. But the executive director of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, Julia Bacay-Abad, said her agency did not have the resources or the manpower to track all of Napoles’ accounts. “We have a limited number of investigators and lawyers, but we will try our best to do our task,” Abad said. De Lima also said the NBI would allow the whistle blowers in the case, former employees of Napoles, to attend the Senate investigation. “There is standing invitation, and maybe they can attend in subsequent hearings. But I prefer that while the cases have not yet been filed, they don’t appear because there are risks,” De Lima said. She said if people had a chance to listen to the whistle blowers Benhur Luy and Merlina Sunas, their “credibility would be enhanced.” – With Rey E. Requejo
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