The fugitive Janet Lim-Napoles, the object of the biggest manhunt in recent Philippine criminal history, has left a money trail of diversion of public funds to nongovernment organizations (NGOs) of appalling proportions.
She has eluded a dragnet deployed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the effort to arrest her on a charge of serious illegal detention of a key witness in the investigation of the siphoning of P10 billion of congressional pork barrel to a syndicate of 20 NGOs headed by Napoles, the JLN group of companies, that allegedly found its way into her bank accounts after paying kickbacks to five senators and 23 congressmen in exchange for access to their pork barrel largesse.
The investigation spearheaded by the DOJ and the National Bureau of Investigation to determine the criminal responsibility of JLN in this diversion appears to have turned into a wild goose chase with the disappearance of Napoles, who had been tipped of the arrest before the arrival of NBI agents out to serve the warrants of arrest at 28 of her addresses. The agents found Napoles’ lawyers waiting for them in one of her residences.
The hunt for Napoles in all the corners of Planet Earth, with the aid of canceling her passport, has been reduced to a pointless, futile and much more so laughable and absurd exercise, when the government is refocusing its effort on its serious illegal detention charge against the businesswoman for keeping in her safe house Benhur Luy, her former employee who has revealed in his affidavits to the NBI JLN operations in gaining access to the pork barrel, rather than making a case of misuse or abuse of public funds.
What purpose does it serve the government if Napoles had been arrested? What more information can government extract from Napoles in captivity to make a criminal case against her than the affidavits of six whistle-blowers, all her former employees with axes to grind, shedding light on her companies’ operations?
Ostensibly, in seeking the arrest of Napoles, the government is now posturing as a champion of the human rights of Luy in an issue less important than the massive diversion of public funds to racketeering syndicates whose exposure is the primary concern of the public interest.
Napoles is now beyond the reach of the long arm of the law, and the prospects of lodging criminal charges against her and her associates in her group of NGOs and officials involved in the fund diversion, have now become more remote with her disappearance.
The release on Friday of the Commission on Audit (COA) report on the pork barrel fund use from 2007 to 2009 reveals a more extensive network of the penetration of the fund and much larger extraction than the alleged P10-billion pillage by the Napoles group of NGOs than what the whistle-blowers’ affidavits have disclosed.
The COA report indicates that media investigative reports, mostly based on the affidavits submitted to the NBI, describe merely the tip of the iceberg of the penetration of the vaults of the national treasury by a network of suction pumps that funneled resources to NGOs through the collusion between private syndicates and the government offices (both in Congress and the executive department) in allocated patronage largesse by the national budget for public works and improvements.
COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan, most graphically described this system of fund transfers as running on “saliva and connections.” The extent of this network of the collusion dwarfs the links between the Napoles group and five senators and 23 congressmen who gave the syndicate access to their fund.
The report opens the way for a larger inquiry into the dereliction of duty by officials acting as gatekeepers of public funds.
Highlights of the COA report include:
— The Department of Budget Management released a total of P12 billion for PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) allocations from 2007 to 2009. Of the amount, P6,156 million allocated to 12 senators and 180 congressmen, went to went to 82 NGOs. Ten of those NGOs were linked to Napoles. They received P2.157 billion.
— The Department of Social Welfare and Development was one of the biggest conduits of the pork barrel funds, receiving P2.47 billion from 2007 to 2009.
(To be continued on Wednesday)