Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Napoles ordered arrested - Philippine Star

No bail for detention of witness  

MANILA, Philippines - The Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) yesterday ordered the arrest of Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the pork barrel scam, for serious illegal detention.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed last night that the case against Napoles and her brother Reynald Lim was filed with the Makati RTC for the alleged kidnapping of whistle-blower Benhur Luy in December last year.

"The warrants of arrest were issued this afternoon by Makati City RTC Branch 150," De Lima said in a text message.

She said the court recommended no bail.

An NBI team was on its way to Napoles' house last night to serve the arrest warrant.

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

The case involved the illegal detention of Luy, the whistleblower in the alleged diversion of pork barrel funds of several lawmakers into dummy non-government organizations (NGOs) purportedly for ghost projects worth over P10 billion.

Luy claimed he was detained for three months in a condo unit at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig last year.

On March 22, he was "rescued" by NBI agents upon orders of De Lima, who received a letter from Luy's family seeking assistance.

Napoles' camp said the NBI and De Lima were just "misled" into rescuing Luy and taking him into custody during a "fake rescue" last March at the condominium unit of Napoles' brother.

Napoles later urged the DOJ to stand by its earlier ruling dismissing the illegal detention case against her. 

She said the DOJ should deny for "lack of merit" a motion for reconsideration filed two weeks ago by the NBI, asking the DOJ to reverse its ruling on the case.

Pork releases to continue

Meanwhile, Senate President Franklin Drilon said yesterday that the release of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for senators would not be stopped even if the DOJ would file charges against some lawmakers linked to the pork barrel fund scam.

Journalists had asked Drilon whether senators linked to the scam would be denied of their 'pork' allocation.

He said the release of the PDAF is a prerogative of Malacañang, and the Senate authorizes the appropriation.  "The release of the appropriation is a prerogative of the President," he said, noting that's how the check and balance system operates in our country. 

"I repeat, the PDAF is found in the General Appropriations Act (GAA). The General Appropriations Act is merely an authority to spend public funds. When that will be spent is a matter that lies within prerogative of the President because they are the ones who will release it," he added.

Asked whether the Senate can prevent the endorsement of PDAF projects to the senators, he said he does not think so. 

"What we do – when the request passes through the Office of the Senate President – is to verify whether or not the request is in accordance with the menu specified in the GAA," Drilon said.

As to how the PDAF allocations are used, the Senate President said there are mechanisms to determine pork barrel use.  

"That is audit already."" Drilon reiterated that the Senate is not intervening in the probe of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to give them a free hand in handling the case.

"We will decide whether there is a need for further investigation. We will not investigate it. We will just wait for the results of the investigation of the NBI, or ombudsman and if we see that these are enough, I think there is no need to investigate," he said.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Gregorio Honasan and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whose names were dragged in the pork scam, expressed readiness to face the charges. 

Enrile said his records on how his PDAF was spent are complete.  

Marcos said he is not bothered, noting that his documents are in order, while Honasan said he is ready to face the charges, as long as due process and the rule of law are followed.

Estrada said he sees the DOJ move as an opportunity to explain his side over the allegations hurled by JLN enterprise head Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains in the P10-billion pork barrel scam. 

Mere victims

Justice Secretary De Lima said some lawmakers linked to the pork barrel scam are just victims, and not among the scammers.

De Lima told the House appropriations committee that her investigators are now in the process of identifying senators and congressmen who benefited from the scam, and those whose names were just used by the scammers.

De Lima said they would name both the victims and those who benefited from the scam, noting that charges will be filed against the latter before the Ombudsman. 

She refused to name names, saying she would make the list public once the investigation and gathering of evidence are complete.    

"What is clear to us now is the scheme used by JLN and Napoles in the PDAF and Malampaya fund scam," she said, adding the scheme would show how the funds flowed from the PDAF and Malampaya to Napoles, JLN and her "bogus foundations," and how lawmakers financially benefited from it.

She did not give a timeframe for the completion of investigation and the filing of charges against those involved. 

Best agency to probe pork scam

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said he would leave it to the NBI to look into the alleged involvement of mayors in the reported pork barrel scam.

Roxas said the NBI is the best agency to look into the controversy.     

"I'm in favor of the investigation. I support any investigation either by Congress, Senate, NBI, or Department of Justice," he said, noting that a probe by the Philippine National Police would only duplicate the effort of the NBI.             

"If we will be the one to handle the probe, critics might say there is politics involved," Roxas said as he urged the public to just wait for the outcome of the NBI probe.  

Forged signatures

Mayor Simplicio Rosario of Binmaley in Pangasinan said he is open to any investigation so the truth would come out in the pork barrel fund scam, where his town was listed as one of the beneficiaries of a P10-million project.        

Rosario told The STAR that he executed an affidavit before the Commission on Audit (COA) special audit office in December last year, attesting that his signature was forged in a letter addressed to the secretary of agrarian reform, and in several documents showing that a P10-million fund was released to his town.         

Vice Gov. Jose Ferdinand Calimlim Jr., the former mayor of Mapandan town, said he too executed an affidavit in October 2012 after receiving a letter from the COA asking him to account for the P10-million fund supposedly received by his town while he was mayor.    

"I saw the documents and they forged my signatures. I had my affidavit, together with our municipal treasurer and municipal agriculturist, stating that no such project was received by our town," Calimlim said.     

Former Urdaneta City mayor Amadeo Perez Jr., now the chairman of Manila Economic and Cultural Office, has denied receiving the supposed P10-million agriculture fund for the city. 

He said he got a letter from COA last year asking him to account for the fund, which he said he did not receive. He said his signature was forged.            

Like Rosario, both Calimlim and Perez expressed willingness to cooperate in the investigation. 

Palace supports Tagle's call

Malacañang supported the call of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to remind public officials – lawmakers in particular – to use the pork barrel funds to help poor Filipinos.          

"It's good for the cardinal to remind our legislators their purpose for PDAF, to provide and to help and to assist those who are in need in their respective districts," Secretary Edwin Lacierda said.           

He said he sympathizes with the sentiments of the prelate, which was contained in a statement released by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).   

"So, if properly used, PDAF can be an effective tool for poverty reduction. Now we have many congressmen who have been using their PDAF judiciously to help alleviate the plight of their poor constituents," Lacierda said. 

Lacierda said the rationale behind the PDAF was for the national government to help the poor through their elected congressmen.  

Protection sought for whistleblowers

Sen. Francis Escudero called for a review and strengthening of the protection and incentives program for whistleblowers in order to encourage exposésof anomalies in government.

Escudero filed Senate Bill 425 seeking full protection for whistleblowers, whose lives he said are put at risk for revealing damaging information against people in power. – With Christina Mendez, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Eva Visperas, Jess Diaz, Delon Porcalla, Marvin Sy
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