MANILA - What seemed at first as a simple issue of illegal detention has exploded into what is now known as the "mother of all scams."
Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the scam, claimed to be a simple businesswoman in the days after the scam was made public.
In a span of almost four months, several personalities and lawmakers have been dragged into the controversial scam.
Napoles is the owner of JLN Corporation, a trading company involved in agricultural products.
According to whistle-blower Benhur Luy, a former employee of the company, it was in 2003 when Napoles discovered a quicker way to earn money.
The scam involves the creation of fake non-government organizations (NGO) that are listed as beneficiaries in several livelihood and agricultural projects. The funds used in these projects are usually sourced from lawmaker's Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel.
Around P10 billion pork barrel have allegedly been coursed through the Napoles NGOs over the last 10 years.
According to Luy, Napoles would talk to lawmakers and would promise them commissions equivalent to 40 to 60 percent of the PDAF in exchange for the right to determine the implementing agency and fund beneficiary.
The businesswoman allegedly used her employees, including drivers and nannies, to illegally receive government funds from various legislators using dummy foundations.
Luy narrated that he and his cousin had a falling out when she suspected him of dealing on his own with some of their contacts in the scam. He said Napoles and her brother detained him against his will unless he was rescued by operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on March 22, 2013.
Not the first time
This was not the first time that Napoles has been involved in controversy. In 2001, Napoles and her husband, retired Marine Maj. Jaime Napoles, were charged with graft and malversation of public funds in connection with the alleged irregular purchase of 500 Kevlar helmets worth P3.8 million.
Both Jaime and Janet were cleared of charges in 2002 and 2010, respectively.
In 2008, Janet Napoles was summoned by the Senate agriculture committee for her involvement in the so-called fertilizer scam, wherein former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc-joc" Bolante was accused of channeling P728 million in fertilizer funds to the 2004 election campaign of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Napoles did not appear before the Senate inquiry after Malacanang issued Executive Order 464, barring
Cabinet members, police and military generals, senior national security officials, and other top officials from attending congressional hearings without the President's consent.
Aside from using the pork barrel funds, the Malampaya funds were also allegedly used by Napoles and her company.
After continuously denying her involvement in the scam, Napoles eventually surrendered on August 28, after a P10 million bounty was put up for information leading to her arrest.
Napoles is set to face the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on November 7, 10 a.m.