OFW linked to pork scam innocent: whistleblower

By David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Sep 26 2013 12:59 PM | Updated as of Sep 27 2013 06:01 AM

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MANILA - An overseas Filipino worker who is facing plunder and malversation charges over the P10 billion pork barrel scam has no link to the fake non-government organization set up by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, a whistle-blower said Thursday.

Whistle-blower Merlina Suñas confirmed before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that she placed the name of her cousin, Nemesio Pablo Junior, as president of the Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation, Inc. -- a bogus NGO linked to Napoles.

"Opo, senator, pinsan ko po yun presidente ng Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation, Inc. Wala siyang kaalam-alam," she said upon questioning by Sen. Koko Pimentel.

She said Pablo's signatures in the NGO's papers were forged.

She said that during the time, she did not know that Napoles was setting up fake NGOs. She said she only knew that one of the Napoles foundations was sued for overpricing of supplies.

"Sinabi ko naman kay Mam Jenny Napoles - ilalagay ko na lang yung pangalan ng pinsan ko. Sabi ko naman sa kanya ang pag-form ko ng isang foundation hindi ko akalain na ang nangyari ay iba ang kalalabasan," she told the senators.

Suñas said she had already apologized to Pablo and had asked her lawyer to drop the plunder case against her cousin.

For her part, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she did not know that Suñas' cousin did not know that his name was being used in the Napoles NGO without his knowledge.

"We included in the charges those who were named as part of those NGos as disclosed by the whistle-blowers but as to whether or not they willingly or allowed themselves to be part of the NGOs or to be named as officers of the NGOs. I think this was in general," she said

She said she will ask the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the possible dropping of the criminal complaint against Pablo.

Lawyer Levito Baligod also said he allowed Pablo to be included in the charges because he did not want anyone the prosecution to be charged with favoring some of the relatives of the whistle-blowers. He said he asked the NBI to explain to Pablo why he is being charged in the scam.

Pablo is among the respondents in the plunder and malversation complaint filed by the Department of Justice before the Ombudsman in his capacity as president of the Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation, Inc.

A special audit of the Commission on Audit said the NGO received P145 million from the combined Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of Senators Bong Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Gringo Honasan from 2007 to 2009.

The project purportedly provided farmers with training kits and seminars.

Pablo is currently working as a welder in Alice Springs in Australia's Northern Territory.

He earlier told ABS-CBN in an exclusive report by Gigi Grande that he was shocked to see his name flashed in the news over The Filipino Channel (TFC). He said that prior to his departure to Australia, he spent most of his time in Umingan, Pangasinan where he ran a small welding shop. 

"Ang naramdaman ko ay magkahalong kaba, siyempre nandun rin ang galit, at wala akong idea kung sino ang may gawa," he said.

Asked for comment on the latest development, he told ABS-CBN News: "Thank you, Lord!" 

Pimentel said Pablo could simply give a statement to the local embassy so he will not need to come back to the Philippines.