Sandiganbayan justice partied with Napoles: whistleblower

By Dharel Placido,

Posted at Aug 30 2013 02:27 PM | Updated as of Aug 30 2013 10:30 PM

MANILA – A Sandiganbayan justice is now being linked to businesswoman and alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

Levito Baligod, lawyer of some of the whistle-blowers in the pork barrel scam, said a new witness claimed to have seen Sandiganbayan 4th division head Gregory Ong attend several parties put up by Napoles. Some of the parties happened in Discovery Suites in Ortigas where Napoles also holds office.

"I saw several names of politicians in the affidavit but one name shocked me the most," Baligod said, referring to Ong.

Baligod added the whistle-blower claimed that Ong had several meetings with Napoles at a private function room in Edsa Shangri-La. The meetings were allegedly held while Napoles and her husband, retired Marine Maj. Jaime "Jimmy" Napoles, were facing graft and malversation charges over the irregular purchase and ghost deliveries of 500 Kevlar helmets worth P3.8 million to the military.

Sixteen others were charged.

Court records show that the respondents split the contract into identical purchase and requisition orders amounting to not more than P300,000. The splitting was done to avoid the requirement of having the P3.8 million contract approved by higher officers.

It turned out that the seven winning bidders were dummies linked to Napoles.

Napoles promised to deliver the helmets in 1998, but failed to fulfill it months after she was paid. She eventually completed the delivery of the 500 helmets in 2000, a year after it was discovered that not a single helmet was turned over to the military.

However, the delivered helmets were made in Taiwan and not in the US as earlier agreed.

Graft and malversation charges were filed in 2001 against the Napoles couple and several others. Jaime was cleared of the charges in 2002 due to lack of probable cause while Janet was exonerated of the charges in 2010.

"She was exonerated despite that. All the checks intended for the payment of the helmets were given to Napoles," Baligod said.

A Rappler report, meanwhile, showed a photo of Ong beside Napoles and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. Ong denied any connection with Napoles and said he was not aware that he was having a photo taken with a respondent to a case that his division previously handled.

17 more whistle-blowers

Baligod said apart from the existing 10 whistle-blowers already in custody of the Department of Justice, 17 more former employees of Napoles arrived at the DOJ Thursday evening.

Of the 17 witnesses, only 3 have furnished their respective affidavits so far. The new witnesses are being represented by a different lawyer, Baligod noted.

Apart from the testimony on Ong, the whistle-blowers also claimed that Napoles tried to influence them into pinning down another whistle-blower, Benhur Luy, who has accused the businesswoman of setting up fake non-government organizations.

Luy, Napoles' distant relative and former assistant, claimed that the NGOs were allegedly used by Napoles to pocket pork barrel funds from certain lawmakers, who in turn allegedly got huge cuts from the deal with the businesswoman.

According to Baligod, the whistle-blowers were told to sign pre-made sworn statements by one of the lawyers of Napoles, a certain Atty. Alex Tan.

The whistle-blower also claimed that Napoles used to employ a lawyer who would bribe certain Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) employees to lower her income taxes.

Baligod added that the new set of witnesses corroborated Luy's earlier testimony that Napoles was behind the fake NGOs.

Napoles is currently at the Makati City Jail for the serious illegal detention charges filed by Luy.

A case has yet to be filed against Napoles involving the alleged misuse of the pork barrel funds. The government, through the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council (IAGCC), has launched a probe into the scam. The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has also started its investigation into the matter.