Businesswoman in P10-B pork barrel 'scam' ready to face probe

Janet Lim Napoles, the businesswoman linked to an alleged P10 billion fund anomaly involving the “pork barrel” allocations of several lawmakers, is ready to submit herself to investigation, her lawyer said Wednesday.

"She is willing to be investigated but at the proper forum,” lawyer Bruce Rivera said at a press conference. “If it is a formal charge there will at least be proof and evidence involved."

Asked if Napoles was willing to have the Anti-Money Laundering Council open her bank accounts, Rivera said he still has to consult with his client on that.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has earlier investigated Napoles in connection with the alleged illegal detention of the supposed whistleblower in the scam, Benhur Luy, a self-confessed employee of Napoles. The charge, however, was dismissed for lack of probable cause.

Fear for security

Rivera refused to say where Napoles is currently staying, citing security concerns. He insisted that his client was not in hiding.

"Mayroon siyang nafi-feel na sumusunod na kotse. Baka akalain ng masasamang loob na may P10 billion siya kaya okay lang kidnappin 'to dahil pera din naman 'to ng bayan," he said.

In a statement handed out to the media at the press conference, Napoles said: "I now fear for the security of myself and my family since Benhur have divulged in public our own known residential address as well as location of our offices."

"Several family-owned vehicles with plate numbers were also exposed by Benhur and we now fear that kidnappers would now be targeting us thinking that the amount of money being attributed to us is untrue," Napoles added.

Rivera admitted that they have yet to map out their next legal steps, following accusations that Napoles' alleged fake foundations benefited from the release of Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or pork barrel by several senators and congressmen.

PR challenge

For now, he said they are concerned with clearing Napoles' name in the media.

"We are at a PR (public relations) challenge. We are still trying to fix what has been devastated," Rivera said.

"We don't know if we will file a case against the Inquirer or the whistleblowers," the lawyer added, referring to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which ran a six-part series on the supposed anomaly.

For her part, Napoles appealed to the media to be "fair and accurate" in their reports, stressing that her family, especially her children, have already been dragged by the "false and malicious reports of one newspaper who has the habit of sensationalizing stories at the expense of truth and fairness."

Lawmakers

According to affidavits of several of Napoles' employees, including Luy, she was engaged in an anomaly in which public funds used in the "fertilizer fund scam," the Malampaya fund scam, and the PDAF of lawmakers were given to non-existent foundations to be used for ghost projects. They claim Napoles and the lawmakers end up sharing the re-funneled funds.

Rivera said his client felt "saddened" that lawmakers were being dragged into the mess. "She is also nahihiya sa mga lawmakers kasi hindi niya sila kakilala at she's a little afraid

baka sigawan lang siya," he said.

Rivera said Luy's statements in his affidavits and in the media was part of a "character assassination."

"We have pictures of Luy high on ecstasy,” Rivera said. “He posted pictrues of drugs on the internet calling on everyone to party with him."

The lawyer also described Luy as "gender confused."

The supposed anomaly is already being investigated separately by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Full cooperation to probe

Malacañang, meanwhile, ensured that concerned government agencies will give their full cooperation to the ongoing investigation.

At a press briefing Wednesday, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima herself gave him the assurance that the investigation on the reported anomaly will be "exhaustive and impartial."

"The instruction given to Secretary Leila De Lima that this should be exhaustively investigated... We will investigate all the allegations. Kung may ebidensya, titingnan ang ebidensya. Talagang Kung kailangan ng kooperasyon ng kawani, ibibigay po iyon," he said.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) releases PDAF to identified national agencies based on requests from lawmakers.

Senators receive P200 million each year in PDAF, while House members get P70 million. Half of this amount is allocated to infrastructure projects, while the other half must go to "soft" projects such as scholarship programs, medical assistance to indigent patients and livelihood support programs.

Letter to PNoy

Lacierda likewise downplayed the impact to the ongoing probe of a letter supposedly written by Napoles to President Benigno Aquino III where she denied links in the alleged scam.

The President's spokesman said it is only "normal" for Filipino citizens to write letters to Aquino for different purposes. He did not, however, verify the existence of Napoles' letter.

"It's not a big thing that somebody writes to office of the President. Sa araw-araw na ginawa ng Diyos, marami pong nagpapadala ng sulat kay Pangulong Aquino," Lacierda said.

— with Andreo C. Calonzo/KBK, GMA News

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