Luy faces the Blue Ribbon (videograb from NBN-4)
LEGISLATORS AND THEIR chiefs of staff who deal with alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles usually pocket at least half of the pork barrel funds that they channeled to Napoles’ ghost nongovernment organizations, the star witness in the pork barrel scandal told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Thursday.
Benhur Luy, Napoles’ former right hand man and her second cousin, was the surprise witness in the committee’s probe into the pork barrel scam. Appearing with Luy before the committee were his lawyer, Atty. Levito Baligod, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
Luy attended the hearing wearing a bullet proof vest under his jacket. De Lima told the committee that they had “raw information that there might be a security threat leveled against (Luy) when he appears today.” In fact, De Lima said that the decision to bring Luy before the committee was only made at the last minute because of concerns that his appearance would preempt the criminal investigation into the matter.
Luy told the committee that both senators and congressmen who deal with Napoles usually ask for a fifty percent cut of the project. In fact, Luy said Napoles often ends up bargaining with the legislator or his/her chief of staff because Napoles often offers only a 40 percent cut at the start.
Luy takes the oath (photo from Senate PRIB)
“She will tell them at first it is for forty percent,” Luy told the committee. The legislator would then ask that the cut be raised to 50 percent. Sometimes, they settle for 45 percent, he said. Sometimes, Napoles even tells the lawmakers that they can only get 45 percent because Napoles also has to factor in the payment of taxes, a remark that caused a stir among the incredulous senators.
Luy also told the committee that members of the Senate often get their cut in cash, while members of the House of Representatives get theirs through direct bank transactions. “They give us their account numbers,” he said.
Luy however acknowledged that he had never personally witnessed the turnover of cash to senators.
Luy added that sometimes, it is the senator or his chief of staff who comes to the JLN offices to collect the cash. Other times, the chief of staff of the senator personally accompanies them to the bank to withdraw the money.
Luy also confirmed earlier reports that Napoles had set up several ghost NGOs in order to receive the money from the pork of the legislators. In fact, most of the JLN staffmembers are ‘presidents’ of these ghost NGOs, he said. For example, the driver of Napoles and the wife of her bodyguard are named as presidents of several NGOs.
Napoles was able to set up such a well-oiled machinery that it is JLN that the letters from the legislators endorsing JLN corporation or the ghost NGOs to handle the pork projects are even drafted by JLN. Luy told the committee that the office staff of the legislators merely copy the draft endorsements on their own letterhead before signing them and submitting them to the Department of Budget and Management. This way, JLN effectively cornered the market for the pork barrels of these legislators.
“We email to (the legislators) the draft letter of endorsement, and the memorandum of agreement and the project proposal,” Luy told the committee. “They will just revise the draft letter.”
Luy told the committee that Napoles usually pays the legislator a fifty percent advance, with the other fifty percent released to the legislator after the DBM releases the Special Allotment Release Order or SARO, which gives the agency the authority to conduct bids or award contracts for goods and services. The SARO is often followed a week or so later by a Notice of Cash Allotment, which triggers the pork release.
As for the pork sharing itself, Luy said that fifty percent of the fund goes to the legislator, and ten percent goes to officials of the implementing agency as a bribe, or what Luy called “an SOP of ten percent.”
As for the remaining 40 percent, Luy simply said: “Kay Napoles na po yun.”