P728-M fertilizer scam witness rescued

MANILA, Philippines --- The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has rescued a supposed star witness in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam after his four months captivity inside a Taguig City posh condominium owned by the second biggest supplier of fertilizer for the Department of Agriculture (DA) project during the Arroyo administration.

Rescued by the NBI was Benhur Luy, a lead employee of JLN Group of Companies owned by Janet Lim-Napoles, who was allegedly held captive by the businesswoman and her brother Reynald Lim, also known as Jojo Lim, since December, 2012 inside her posh condominium at Pacific Plaza Tower, Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City.

Of the two alleged abductors of Benhur, NBI-Special Task Force headed by Assistant Regional Director Rolando Argabioso, only Lim was arrested in the rescue operation they carried out at the condominium of Napoles last March 22.

However, Lim complained of chest pains prompting the NBI agents to rush him to St. Luke's Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City.

"The complainants alleged that Benhur, as the lead employee of JLN Group of Companies, who allegedly oversaw the implementation of several government-funded projects on behalf of JLN Group of Companies like the alleged Fertilizer Scam, Malampaya Fund Scam, and Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) anomalies, maybe the reason he is being detained," Argabioso told reporters.

Lim and Napoles were charged before the Department of Justice (DOJ) with Violation of Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines or Serious Illegal Detention. The DOJ, for its part, has sent subpoenas to the suspects and they were expected to attend the first preliminary hearing of their case on April 15.

Records show that the rescue of Benhur stemmed from the request of the victim's relatives who, through their counsel, Atty. Levito Baligod, wrote to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima last March 1 and informed her that their kin was being held captive by a group headed by Napoles and Lim.

Arturo Fransisco and Gertrudes Luy, parents of the victim, said in a joint sworn statement they executed that on December 15, 2012, they tried to contact Benhur to plan their Christmas holiday but they failed to reach him. They learned from the Benhur's friends that the victim was being held captive by Napoles and Lim.

Gertrudes also recalled receiving a phone call from Lim and the latter informed her that Benhur allegedly betrayed JLN by engaging in projects that the company is not aware of and that the victim was being investigated and detained by them.

She claimed that Lim demanded that Benhur's laptop be given to them in exchange for allowing her to see her son. Lim, according to Gertrude, even dissuaded them to inform NBI since the suspect bragged that they "we have the government at our clutches."

"[Gertrudes] asked for her [Napoles] forgiveness for whatever it is that Benhur have done. JLN [Napoles] told her that Benhur is being held in a room for "rehabilitation," the sworn-affidavit read.

The complainants said they repeatedly asked Lim and Napoles to release their son but Jojo told them that "he will have to put Ben under the custody of the lawyer and he washes his hands of whatever happens to him."

They said that there are times wherein the suspects let them see their son, but during their meeting on February 23, 2013, Benhur handed to them his handwritten note, saying that the victim was being detained against his will.

The complainants are convinced that Benhur was being detained because of his knowledge in several government-funded projects on behalf of JLN Group of Companies like the fertilizer fund scam, Malampaya fund scam, and PDAF anomalies.