Whistleblower in P10-B pork barrel 'scam' accepts govt protection offer

Benhur Luy and other “whistleblowers” in the alleged P10-billion scam involving government funds have agreed to be placed under the Witness Protection Program (WPP), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Thursday.

"We were advised by their lawyer, Atty. Levi Baligod, that they will now be coordinating with the WPP office for the purpose of putting under WPP coverage 'yung kanyang mga kliyente although ang uunahin I think is si Benhur mismo," De Lima told reporters.

Luy has accused businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, owner of JLN Corp., of using ghost foundations to solicit donations from lawmakers through their "pork barrels," or formally known as Priority Development Assistance Funds.

Luy and several other individuals, who had earlier submitted affidavits to the Department of Justice (DOJ), are said to have been working for Napoles, a claim the businesswoman had denied.

De Lima had earlier offered government protection to Luy but he declined, saying his camp would still have to think it over at the time.

"But because naging mainit na mainit na ang usapin nitong kaso na ito kaya in-offer ko ulit through Atty. Baligod and na-kumbinse na niya 'yung kliyente, si Benhur, na magpasailalim na sa WPP," De Lima said.

Other whistleblowers

Baligod, in a separate interview, said apart from Luy they are already working out the WPP applications of two other "potential whistleblowers."

He said their camp first had to secure the safety of the two whistleblowers before finally applying for WPP coverage, adding motorcycle-riding people had been seen tailing the two up to their residences. He said the issue had already been "addressed."

Baligod also said he has yet to ask three other individuals if they wanted to get government protection. He said he has not yet spoken to the three since they already returned to their home provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao.

These individuals were named as presidents and officers of Napoles' ghost foundations without their knowledge, Baligod said.

Strong case

Meanwhile, De Lima said she gave specific instructions to the "small team" of investigators from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to carefully build up a strong case against those who might be involved in the scam.

De Lima said it was too early for her to assess the "strength" of the case, adding she has not yet reviewed all the documents and other pieces of evidence currently with the NBI, an agency under the DOJ.

"Nagkakaroon sila minsan ng case conference pero hindi ako kasama dun. They also coordinated with relevant agencies na sa tingin nila ay makakatulong din at kung saan nanggagaling din yung ibang dokumento na ini-evaluate nila," she said.

Illegal detention

De Lima also said the dismissal of a separate case of illegal detention earlier filed by Luy against Napoles would not affect the ongoing NBI probe on the fund scam.

"Iba 'yung issue na 'yan. Yung issue na 'yan sa serious illegal detention case, as far as I’m concerned, I’m treating that differently," she said.

Luy was "rescued" by NBI agents after his parents wrote to De Lima seeking for help, claiming their son was taken by Napoles against his will.

Luy claimed that Napoles detained him in their apartment in Taguig City after learning that he was planning on setting up a business to compete with Napoles'.

"Anuman ang katotohanan diyan sa kaso na 'yan ng illegal detention, hindi maapektuhan naman 'yung mga usapin pagdating dito sa mga allegations dito sa mga scams dahil nandiyan ang mga dokumento, nandiyan ang mga affidavit. I’m treating that differently," De Lima said.

She also reminded the concerned parties that the serious illegal detention case was not yet settled, saying there is still a pending motion for reconsideration filed by the NBI seeking to reverse the case's dismissal.

NBI team

De Lima has also admitted that some of the agents investigating the supposed scam were the same ones who built up the illegal detention case against Napoles.

Fearing possible partiality from the NBI agents, the camp of Napoles had earlier appealed to the DOJ that a different set of investigators be tapped in the investigation.

De Lima, however, assured Napoles' camp that the team included new and more agents.

"We really want it to be as thorough and as impartial as possible, kaya in-enhance na namin 'yung team. Pina- reinforce ko na rin ng more lawyer-investigators and meron na ring lawyer-investigators from the NBI Anti-Fraud Division," she said.

"Pinatulungan ko na 'yung original team kung puwede mapabilis at para mas mas ayos, mas tama, mas thorough ang resulta," De Lima added.

De Lima cautioned Napoles' camp against its accusation that the NBI seemed to have been tricked by Luy into belieiving he had been illegally detained by Napoles.

"Dahan dahan naman sila sa pagsasalita ng ganyan. May nabasa nga akong na parang pinapa-inhibit ang NBI," she said.

"Hindi naman papatulan 'yung ganyang mga moves or strategy kasi at the end of the day, baka strategy din nila 'yan na sisiraan nila ng husto ang NBI or gagalitin ang NBI para sabihin na huwag na dapat NBI ang mag-imbestiga kasi hindi na impartial, biased na," De Lima said. — KBK, GMA News