MANILA - Dennis Cunanan, one of the accused in the pork barrel scam, has revealed that senators personally handpicked and endorsed non-government organizations of Janet Lim Napoles as project implementors, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Friday.
In a press conference, De Lima said the Department of Justice has accepted Cunanan's application as state witness and entered him into the witness protection program provisionally, subject to the final approval of the Office of the Ombudsman.
The justice secretary said Cunanan, former general manager of the Technology Resource Center (TRC), gave vital information including documents that belied the claims of some senators that they did not handpick or certify Napoles NGOs to be the project implementors of their pork barrel projects.
"Sa unang pagkakataon, someone from one of the implementing agencies na sinasabi na hindi totoo ang mag sinasabi ng 3 senador sa kanilang respective counter-affidavits na wala silang kinalaman sa pagpili ng NGOs, wala silang kinalaman sa dealings ng Napoles NGOs sa kanila, na ang kanilang signatures o kaya signatures ng authorized agents like chiefs of staff ay forged daw," she said.
"Yung ganung depensa nung 3 senaodr sa counter-affdiavits are being flatly debunked or belied by Mr. Cunanan," she added.
Senators Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile are among 38 individuals facing plunder, bribery and malversation charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged links to the scam.
The scam saw priority development assistance funds of lawmakers being funneled to fake NGOs of Napoles, in exchange for kickbacks.
The Commission on Audit said more than P2 billion in PDAF was funneled to Napoles NGOs in 2007-2009.
De Lima said the 3 senators - Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada - have been trying to shift the blame in the pork barrel scam to the implementing agencies by saying that they do not choose which NGOs ultimately receive the money.
However, letter-endorsements submitted by Cunanan to the Department of Justice tell a different story. In it, the accused senators are shown to identify not just the projects where their funds would be allocated but which NGOs will implement the projects.
De Lima said Cunanan also submitted copies of the memoranda of agreement between the Napoles NGO, the implementing agency and the office of the senators.
"Meron express acknowledgement that the senator concerned has endorsed that NGO as implementor of the projects and on top of that expressed warranty by the senator concerned that the selected NGO involved is 'legitimate and bonafide entity with good standing,'" she quoted from Cunanan's statement.
One MOA submitted by Cunanan involved a P35 million project endorsed by the Office of Senator Revilla. The MOA is signed by Senator Revilla and his chief political officer, Atty. Richard Cambe, and former TRC chief Antonio Ortiz.
De Lima said Cunanan made several phone calls to the offices of Senators Estrada, Enrile and Revilla to verify the signatures in the letter-endorsements and MOAs.
Except for Enrile, Revilla and Estrada personally confirmed that the signatures in the documents were authentic, according to Cunanan.
In the case of Enrile, it was his chief of staff, Atty. Gigi Reyes, who signed for the senator.
De Lima said Cunanan also revealed that pork scam whistle-blower Benhur Luy visited his office to follow up on the release of the funds. Luy then called Senators Revilla and Estrada over his cellphone and then handed the phone to the TRC chief.
De Lima said Senators Revilla and Estrada "admonished [Cunanan] na bakit daw hindi kaagad rine release yung mga pondo relative to those projects."
"Both Revilla and Estrada insisted that the TRC honor their choice of the NGOs which they selected to implement the projects since the projects were funded from their PDAF," Cunanan's statement read.
The justice chief said she firmly believes that the signatures of senators in the letter-requests to the Senate Finance Committee, letter-endorsements of NGOs and MOA were not forged.
However, she said it is possible that the signatures in the liquidation reports of the projects might have been forged as testified to by the pork scam whistle-blowers. She said the liquidation reports were done to show "some semblance of compliance."
She also said that concerned officials in the implementing agencies being linked to the scam also have responsibility in the scam.
"They should have been more strict and made sure that the are dealing with legitimate NGOs. However, his defense is that they were also being pressured. Who are they to decline or reject yang mga tawag na yan o personal lobbying na pinapa-release ang pondo?"