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Whistle-blower in Napoles scam still lives in fear

Posted On 2013 Aug 30
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A Catholic nun is joined by students of St. Scholastica's College as they hold signs and chant slogans to demand the abolition of a misused fund for legislators' pet projects, outside their campus in Manila August 28, 2013. On Monday, tens of thousands Filipinos marched through the centre of Manila and other cities to express indignation at the misuse of "pork barrel" funds under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). (MNS photo)

A Catholic nun is joined by students of St. Scholastica’s College as they hold signs and chant slogans to demand the abolition of a misused fund for legislators’ pet projects, outside their campus in Manila August 28, 2013. On Monday, tens of thousands Filipinos marched through the centre of Manila and other cities to express indignation at the misuse of “pork barrel” funds under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). (MNS photo)

MANILA  (Mabuhay) -– A whistle-blower in the pork barrel scam has found new hope in the fight to uncover wrongdoing in the use of the priority development assistance funds (PDAF) of lawmakers.

Former JLN Group of Companies project coordinator Merlina Suñas said she and other whistle-blowers were overwhelmed by the turnout in the Million People March against the pork barrel last Monday.

“Ang pagkakaalam po namin kami kami na lang po ang lumalaban pero nung nakita po namin ang nangyari nung Monday, napaiyak po kami dahil marami pong sumuport sa ipinaglaban po namin. Hindi lang po dito sa Metro Manila nangyari pero sa other provinces po at nakita po namin pati sa US ay sumuporta din sila,” she said.

Suñas said the outpouring of support has given them new strength. She, however, clarified that their enemy is not Congress or lawmakers but Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the P10 billion pork barrel scam.

“Hindi naman po namin kalaban itong lawmakers. Ang inaano po namin ay yung kay Mrs. Napoles. Siya po yung parang kalaban po namin dito sa scam na ito,” she said.

Why she spoke

For years, Suñas worked as project coordinator for JLN Group of Companies owned by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles. Suñas said she knew that fake non-government organizations formed by Napoles were being used to siphon off billions of pesos in priority development assistance funds from public coffers.

Suñas said she kept her peace until the illegal detention of Benhur Luy, Napoles’ cousin and personal assistant, changed her mind.

“Ang nag-trigger lang po sa amin firstly yung pagka-detain kay Benhur. Yung kaso po na yun parang nabaligtad po, nawalan po ng pag-asa yung pinaglalaban na illegal detention. Na dismiss po. Yun po ang nag ano sa kanila na kung anuman ang nalalaman ay ilabas na,” she said.

“Sumuporta ako kay Benhur dahil pareho kaming empleyado ni Mrs. Napoles. For 15 years kasi ako sa kanya. Napag-usapan namin na panahon na siguro na ilabas na natin para maputol na itong nangyayari na hindi alam ng nakakarami,” she added.

In her affidavit, Suñas said PDAF appropriated to the fake NGOs were remitted to Napoles. News reports said the businesswoman gave back as much as 85% of the funds to lawmakers and kept the rest for herself.
The employees of JLN, and even the household help, became the presidents and officials of the fake NGOs while a number of cities became beneficiaries.

Signatures of the local officials, however, were fabricated.

Suñas said Napoles also benefited from P900 million in Malampaya gas funds intended for local government units (LGU) ravaged by “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” in 2009. She said there were no deliveries of supplies and materials, and that liquidation reports submitted to concerned government agencies were also allegedly fabricated.

Leave it up to God

In the interview, Suñas said the fear of being harmed is still very real, which is why she and her family are now under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation.

“Nasa custody nila po ako ngayon. Mahirap na po. Ako ay pamilyado. Kailangan protektahan ko ang sarili ko at ang pamilya ko po,” she said.

She said she also understands that her revelations could affect her family for a long time. She said she only prays for strength to accept her fate and leave the rest to God.

She said her only goal in exposing the scam is to end it once and for all and let the public benefit from the pork barrel of legislators.

“Basta naisabi na namin itong scam na ito, na sana po ay maputol na po ito para sa susunod ay may takot na ang ibang lawmakers na gumawa ng karahasan na ito. Sana nga po sa nangyari na ito lalo na yung programa ng Presidente na ‘tuwid na daan’ sana may takot na ang legislators natin na gumawa ng kababalaghan at matakot na sila dahil po sa nangyari na ito,” she said. (MNS)

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