Why charge Napoles' employees 'merely following orders'?
MANILA, Philippines – Pork barrel scam state witness Benhur Luy testified on Thursday, August 14, that several employees of alleged big-time scammer Janet Lim-Napoles did not want to turn against their employer, calling them 'hard-headed.'
In his testimony, Luy said Napoles' employees who denied Napoles' involvement in the scam that siphoned off millions of pesos in public funds were charged in court. Luy was responding to a question from Napoles' lead counsel Stephen David as to why the prosecutors decided to file charges against the employees if they were merely acting on orders from Napoles.
"Nag-eeffort kami na i-accommodate… Sila din, empleyado, driver lang, napagutusan. Hinihikayat namin na makipag-ugnayan para sabihin yung totoo. The problem is ayaw nila, kasi ang tigas-tigas ng ulo nila," Luy explained.
(We made an effort to accommodate [them]… They too were mere employees, driver [who were] merely instructed [by Napoles]. The problem is they didn't want, because they were hard-headed.)
Napoles' nephew Ronald John Lim, her driver-bodyguard John Raymund de Asis, and other employees refused to testify on the skimming of lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Now, they stand accused over the illegal operations.
David asked, "Why? If they did not coordinate, that will change the fact na nagamit lang sila (that they were merely used [by Napoles])?"
A visibly offended Luy simply answered that the employees should have chosen to divulge the truth to investigators from the get go. He added, "Hindi naman, Sir, kami nagpapaka-hero or something dito. Sabihin lang ang totoo." (We are not assuming to be heroes here or something. We are just telling the truth.)
David pointed out that other employees of his client were likewise merely acting "upon the instructions of Napoles," a famous phrase he borrowed from Luy. Court observers have come to expect the phrase said everytime Luy explains his participation in the illegal transactions.
The Sandiganbayan's 1st division was hearing the petitions for bail of detained opposition senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr and his co-accused.
Revilla, Napoles, Lim, de Asis, and Revila's aide Richard Cambe were charged with plunder for allegedly conspiring to siphon off P224 million from Revilla's PDAF using ghost projects by dummy non-governmental organizations controlled by Napoles.
David adapted Luy's testimony saying employees were merely following orders as part of their camp's move to exonerate Lim and de Asis.
"Were you surprised that other employees instructed by Napoles were charged while you and your mother weren't?" David asked Luy.
"Ginamit lang sila. Hindi po ako ang nagdedesisyon sa pagkakaso," Luy answered. (They were merely used. [But] I am not the one deciding who are to be charged)
During a July 24 hearing also on Revilla's bail plea, David already aired his concern about the "Ombudsman's bias." (READ: Court orders review of graft charges vs 3 PDAF accused)
David said there were also private individuals who falsified documents for the scam but were not charged in court. These include supposed relatives of PDAF scam state witness Luy.
"Ang dami kasi nila pinatawag sa Ombudsman na witness. Yung ayaw kumampi sa kanila, kinasuhan ng kaso. Yung sumama sa kanila, hindi nila kinasuhan," he likewise explained in a chance interview with reporters after the hearing.
(There were a lot of witnesses called to the Ombudsman. They filed cases against those who refused to side with them. Those who agreed, they did not.)
"Ganoon ba ang pag-iimbestiga? Pag ayaw kumampi sa iyo, kakasuhan? (Is that how you investigate? If they don't want to side with you, you file a case against them?)" David said.
But the prosecution team already insisted earlier that pointing out the guilt of others does not make those accused not guilty themselves.
David maintained during the Thursday hearing that it was Luy and not his client who faked government projects and pocketed the money meant to fund them, an alternative theory being presented by his camp. (READ: Court: Luy got rich from PDAF? Burden of proof on Napoles)
Telling the truth
Luy's credibility as a witness was attacked before the court as matter of strategy by the defense teams. (READ: Luy testimony inadmissible, defense lawyers argue)
But the witness maintains he has nothing to hide and intends to tell nothing but the truth.
"Wala po akong tinatago. Kaya po ako nagsasabi ng totoo. Andito ako nagte-testify," an emotional Luy said. (I have nothing to hide. That is why I am telling the truth. I am here testifying.)
Lawyer Mike Ancheta, legal counsel for Cambe, likewise challenged Luy to compute the total amount of kickbacks allegedly pocketed by his client.
It took Luy more than 3 hours computing what took Ancheta merely 30 minutes to calculate. By the end of the day, Luy had yet to finish the computation of figures he himself recorded in his infamous ledger.
While a mismatch in the computation will not affect the plunder case as the charge involves the pocketing of kickbacks and illegal amassing of wealth by principal accused Revilla and not by Cambe, it may cast doubt on Luy's credibility.
The hearing will continue on August 20. – Rappler.com