MIND DA NEWS: More questions than answers

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 01 June) — The “Luy Files,” the 2002-2012 transactions of the JLN Corporation of Jane Lim-Napoles kept in computer hard disk by whistleblower Benhur Luy, appears to have lost much of its evidentiary value to pin down the accused in the plunder of the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or pork barrel in corroboration with the audit reports of the Commission on Audit (COA. Then viewed as having the vital answers to the pork barrel scandal, it is now besieged by damning questions.

The disk was given to the Philippine Daily Inquirer on April 27, 2013 and, later, to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on January 27, 2014. Shortly after receiving the disk, the PDI exposed the scam and last month, in a series of special reports, much of the content of the Files, particularly listing the senators and House representatives implicated in the scam.

Napoles, known as the brain of the PDAF scam, came out with her own versions of the scam – one in Pilipino, the other in English — together with a list of participants from the Congress, the Cabinet, the local governments and private sectors. But the Files, as exposed by PDI, has remained credible. Napoles’ version and list, as admitted, are based on recollections; the PDI exposé from the Files is documentary.

But the NBI copy of the Luy disk submitted to the Senate last Wednesday, May 28, and released to the media, to the Congress and the Palace immediately after, showed deletions which the NBI was able to retrieve and restore. To defend the integrity of its exposé, the PDI published the deletions which it had found intact in its own copy. Who deleted the files and why? For nine months after PDI had copied it, the disk was in Luy’s possession until given to the NBI and for four months with the NBI until submitted to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

The deletion could have happened inadvertently, as explained by Luy’s first counsel, lawyer Levito Baligod. But, questions on the integrity of the disk cannot just be dismissed by this possibility. They can create the doubt enough to acquit the accused from the Sandiganbayan.

Many of the deleted files were irrelevant to the scam. However, PDI has shown deletions which could pin down the three senators now facing plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan but for one flaw: authenticationletters unsigned; no proof of the accused having received kickbacks

With the release of the NBI copy of the disk to media, The Philippine Star published retrieved and undeleted fileswhich also suffer the flaws shown in the PDI publications.

Both the PDI and the NBI copies of the Files reveal the PDAF scam as established in the COA audit reports. However, those implicated have claimed their signatures on official documents presented by the COA had been forged. They question the veracity of the projects and the corresponding appropriations from their PDAF allocations. And they deny receiving kickbacks.

Yet, the Files does not tie up the loose ends or provide the missing links.

But the Files affirms an intricate network of conspiracy since 2002, though since 2000 according to Napoles, robbing the people’s money in the guise of development. The conspiracy could have been still intact and flourishing had trust between Napoles and Luy, his most trusted finance officer, not broken down. As it turned out, Luy had loyal co-employees. With the Files in their possession they blew the whistle on Napoles.

In reality, as seen in the Files and their sworn statements as state witnesses, Luy and the other whistleblowers are as guilty as Napoles and her loyal allies. Napoles alone could not have steered smoothly the JLN Corporation, their conspiratorial boat, without Luy and his group. In trying to extricate herself from the Files and the whistleblowers’ testimonies, Napoles can only hit the rocks harder and sink together with Luy and the other whistleblowers.

To recapitulate, hundreds of senators, House representatives, cabinet officials, local government officials, other private persons and members of the media have been implicated in the raid of government coffers according to the Files and to Napoles’ sworn statements resulting in the loss of billions of pesos. The COA confirmed the raid — the misuse of PDAF allocations. But the lawmakers have challenged the COA audit reports and the Files and Napoles, already lacking the evidence that can stand in court, have undermined each other’s credibility.

Could PDAF allocations have been appropriated for projects without the knowledge and consent of the lawmakers concerned?

Luy and the other whistleblowers are master forgers according to their sworn statements. They must have forged signatures in request and endorsement letters and in project proposals. Could the forgeries have been undetected for 14 or15 years that the DBM (Department of Budget Management) had issued the SARO (Special Allotment Release Order) and the NCA (Notice of Cash Allotment) to consummate the raids?

Napoles must have had well-embedded co-conspirators in the Congress and in the DBM. Who? How was she able to maintain with impunity such inside connection for a decade and a half?

These are questions the Files has not answered.

In a PDI report, May 31, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III considered the Files as “useless nonsense, not evidence” and suggested to disregard it. Instead, to build airtight cases against those implicated in the scam, collate official documents. In a later PDI report, June 1, Sen. Francis Escudero urged the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman should begin filing charges against those responsible for the P10-billion pork barrel scam to stop all the speculations.

Are these the answers to the unanswered questions and will they put a closure to the PDAF scandal?

[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.]