PDAF witness admits to assisting in irregular Navy deals
MANILA, Philippines – Pork barrel scam state witness Merlina Suñas admitted to assisting various suppliers of the Philippine Navy in preparing documents while she worked as a clerk at the military arm's procurement section.
In her testimony Thursday, September 11, before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, Suñas said the transactions she helped in preparing documents for during the late 1990s was mired with irregularities.
"Wala pong nangyayaring delivery. That is what we call cash conversion po during that time," she said from the witness stand. (There were no deliveries. That is what we call cash conversion during that time.)
"'Yun po ang kalakaran at that time (That was the usual trade at the time)," she added.
Suñas worked with the Philippine Navy for 21 years before resigning in 1997 to exclusively assist alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in her illegal transactions with government.
Suñas is among the prosecution witnesses who turned against Napoles to reveal to authorities Napoles' alleged multi-million-peso diversion of lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to ghost projects.
The fictitious projects were hosted on paper by non-governmental organizations Napoles allegedly controlled.
Suñas was testifying before the Sandiganbayan First Division for the bail hearing of opposition senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr and his co-accused in his P224-million plunder case.
Revilla, his aide Richard Cambe, Napoles, and two others are charged with plunder for allegedly conspiring to defraud the government of Revilla's PDAF for Revilla's benefit.
During the whole-day Thursday hearing, defense lawyers attacked Suñas' credibility by exposing her history with the Philippine Navy and inconsistencies in her statements.
Lawyer Mike Ancheta, legal counsel for Cambe, questioned Suñas about a November 5 statement she subscribed to before the Ombudsman.
The statement indicated that from 1997 to 1999, then Batanes congressman and now Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was among Napoles' contacts who helped her expand her network in government.
When questioned about the veracity of her statement, Suñas said what she said in her statement was not true. This prompted Napoles' lawyers to say the word "perjury" outloud in court, indicating their camp is eyeing on filing charges against Suñas for lying under oath.
Prosecutors, however, said Suñas was merely confused with the questioning by Ancheta.
Napoles' lawyer Dennis Buenaventura also pointed out in court the discrepancies in Suñas' testimonies.
While she indicated in a labor case that she received P2 million in commissions annually from Napoles, she said in open court that her commissions only amounted P200,000 to P300,000 yearly. (READ: Labor agency: PDAF witness was not Napoles' employee)
The defense lawyers have highlighted the witnesses' involvement in irregularities and their admission to having forged signatures and faked documents for the PDAF transactions.
Justice Efren dela Cruz, however, already indicated in open court that it is incumbent upon the defense to prove their allegations against the witnesses using their own evidence. – Rappler.com