Analysis by Raïssa Robles
I am inviting everyone to closely look at the set of accusations that has given legs to the perception that Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad is corrupt; that he tutored Janet Lim Napoles in the pork barrel scam. And that he is the pork scam mastermind.
All of these grew out of one thing: A statement – in the shape of two affidavits – by accused scamster Janet Lim Napoles. It is this same statement that makes people believe that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) – implemented by Abad – is also heavily tainted with corruption.
Nothing else pins Abad to the pork barrel mess except Janet Lim Napoles’ two affidavits. These are the same affidavits that she personally shared with the Catholic bishops who visited her and who later pronounced her “the victim”, not a principal suspect in the pork scam.
To this day, it is only Napoles who has implicated Abad in the pork scam. And so, it really boils down to Napoles’ word against Abad.
Abad has flatly denied meeting Napoles in Shangri-la hotel over a decade ago. A meeting that Napoles had narrated in her two affidavits, which made the public believe her statement that Abad is the pork mastermind.
So, let’s examine Napoles’ narrative about Abad.
One was given in her affidavit dated May 12, 2014 and written in English. The other is in her affidavit dated May 26, 2014 and written in Filipino. The narrative about Abad is the same in both affidavits.
I obtained both affidavits just like other reporters – from the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which was given official copies by the Department of Justice.
After repeatedly examining both for over a month, I’ve come to the conclusion that Napoles’ story has pretty big holes. That she made it up so she can call one of President Benigno Aquino’s closest political associates the “teacher” and “mastermind” of the pork barrel scam.
Napoles’ charges against Abad were so shocking that we simply swallowed her story whole without closely examining if these were lies.
I must confess, I felt the same way, too. Until I did a line-by-line deconstruction.
If you look closely at the Abad story she had artfully woven, you would see it has pretty big holes.
Let’s examine the implications of framing Abad
Napoles’ story on Abad has taken a life of its own.
It has proven extremely useful to the senators accused of stealing pork funds. They have seized it as proof that President Benigno Aquino III is acting with vindictiveness. That he is only prosecuting his political enemies while protecting political allies like Abad. That he is the “pork barrel king”.
“What I’m looking for is Abad. Where’s Abad? How about Alcala?”
His co-accused Senator Jinggoy Estrada also demanded to know why Abad was not in the list of those to be prosecuted. Estrada said:
“Fairness dictates that they should also investigate those mentioned in the Napoles testimony, or the Napoles affidavit or in the Benhur files.
Bakit kami lang tatlo lagi?… At kung ipapakulong nila kami, dapat makulong din sila. Hindi iyong tatatlo lang kami lagi. [Why is it only the three of us being accused of the scam? And if they would have us jailed, they (including Abad) should be jailed, too. Not just the three of us.]”
Someone posted a meme on Facebook to express the same sentiment (see photo above).
Now let’s examine what Napoles said about Abad, which led me to conclude she was framing Abad.
She told the same story first in an affidavit in English dated May 12, 2014:
She repeated the same story in her affidavit written in Filipino dated May 26, 2014):
Let’s break down the elements of her story:
One – Napoles first met Congressman Abad in the year 2000 when she was introduced to him by a certain Manuel Jarmin in a Japanese restaurant in Edsa Shangri-la Hotel.
Two – In her May 26 affidavit in Filipino, Napoles said
“Kay dating Cong. Butch Abad ko nalaman na NGO o Cooperative ang kailangan upang makapagnegosyo sa mga ahensiya.” [It was from former Congressman Butch Abad that I learned at an NGO or Cooperative was needed in order to undertake transactions with government agencies.]
Three – From this we can reasonably concluded that during her first meeting with Abad, Napoles had no idea about using NGOs and cooperatives to transact with the government. She wrote in her affidavit that she only found this out from Abad for she said –
“In that meeting, he told me about a project worth 10 million pesos. He showed me the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) then explained to me what it was for. Before the meeting ended, I handed him Php 2 Million Pesos.”
Wait a minute. If that was her first meeting with Abad and she did not know beforehand what Abad was going to tell her, why did Napoles have P2 million in her handbag ready to hand over to Abad then and there? What was she intending to do with all that money in the first place? Does she walk around with P2M in her handbag?
Napoles did not explain that in her story on Abad.
Before we go on further, let’s first review how the pork barrel scam works. Napoles’ explanation in her affidavits shows that at the very least, a triangle of conspiracy has to exist among 1) a government agency 2)a lawmaker and 3) an NGO.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) issues a SARO or Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) to the lawmaker to signal that his pork project has been cleared and funds are available. Then the DMB issues a Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) to the implementing government agency. The agency in turn releases the money in tranches to an NGO for implementation.
In Napoles’ pork barrel scam, her bogus NGOs laundered the money and kicked back a certain percentage of the project amount to the lawmaker. And this, she claimed, was all inspired by what Abad told her in their first meeting in the year 2000.
According to Napoles in her English affidavit:
“In that meeting, he (Abad) told me about a project worth 10 million pesos. He showed me the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO from DBM) then explained to me what it was for. When the Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) was released, I gave him another Php 2 Million Pesos. Afterward, when we talked about the implementation, he asked me if I had an NGO. When I told him I did not have an NGO, he told me he would take care of it. From what I recall, he used Batanes Electric Cooperative to implement the project. After some time, he returned the Php 4 Million pesos I gave him with an added Php 2 Million Pesos more. That is when I started to transact using the PDAF.”
At first glance, the transaction seems to be pretty straightforward. Napoles said she gave Abad P2M during the first meeting. Then she gave him another P2M when the Notice of Cash Allocation was released.
But at that time, Napoles did not have an NGO through which to launder the money for this particular transaction. So according to her, Abad volunteered to “take care of it.”
And then, Napoles narrated,
“After some time, he returned the Php 4 Million pesos I gave him with an added Php 2 Million Pesos more.”
In short, Napoles claimed that Abad gave her P6 million in all – of which P4 million came originally from Napoles plus P2 million from Abad.
The following five questions over this transaction has puzzled me no end:
ONE – Why did Napoles advance P4 million to Abad (in two installments) when she had no part at all in the transaction because she had no NGO to to do the money-laundering? What was Napoles’ role in the entire scheme here?
TWO – Why did Abad give Napoles P2 million at the very end when she did not render him any service at all? Meaning, the transaction did not pass through an NGO controlled by her? So she did not do the money-laundering.
THREE – Why would Abad accept P4 million from her and then return it to her at the end, with an additional P2 million tucked in? The entire project amount was worth P10 million. Therefore, Napoles was in effect claiming that Abad gave her 20% (or P2 million) of the entire project amount of P10 million.
FOUR – Why would Abad give her a 20% commission when she did not help out at all in getting his alleged kickback from the project since she had no NGO which he could use as a conduit?
FIVE – Why didn’t the highly profitable relationship between them continue while Abad was a congressman up to the year 2004, the Education Secretary up to 2005 and the budget secretary starting 2010? Is Janet Lim Napoles holding any proof that it did? And if the relationship didn’t, why didn’t it?
These are the elements in Janet Lim Napoles’ story which don’t make sense at all even from the point of view of a scammer.
Which is why the only reasonable conclusion to take is that Napoles is framing Abad on this 2000 incident.
Napoles’ witness has refused to speak
Napoles named a certain Manuel Jarmin as the lone witness to her meeting with Abad. For over a week last month, I repeatedly tried to talk to Jarmin in his office at the Department of Agriculture and his two mobile phones. He never answered my calls and he never phoned back despite my asking his secretary several times for a call-back. I told his secretary it was about the pork barrel scam.
Last week, whistle blower Benhur Luy testified in court that Jarmin had helped Janet Lim Napoles form bogus NGOs.
How Napoles’ story on Abad makes sense
Napoles’ story on Abad makes sense from another, sinister angle. that angle is: who benefits from having the public think of Abad as the pork mastermind and what effect this would have on the political situation.
Abad is not among the congressmen listed in whistle-blower Benhur Luy’s files as having coursed pork through a Napoles NGO. One deleted file, however, contained a draft of a letter allegedly from Senator Vicente Sotto to Budget Secretary Abad about pork. This was unsigned. But Benhur Luy’s voluminous ledger did not show Abad receiving any money from any pork transaction. Although they were both involved in a plot to scam the country, Luy has proved a more reliable source of information than Napoles, who has lied from the start.
Neither did the Commission on Audit pork barrel report show Abad as part of any pork transaction.
A report from radio station DZRH claimed that another whistle-blower named Merlina Suñas had stated in her affidavit that Abad transacted with Napoles between 1997 to 1999. I have not seen that alleged affidavit.
I only have Suñas first affidavit that narrated Benhur Luy’s kidnapping. You can view it here.
But if Merlina Suñas’ second alleged affidavit does exist, this actually contradicts Napoles’ two sworn affidavits because Napoles said she first transacted with Abad in the year 2000.
However, if the Ombudsman were to take in Napoles as a state witness, that would mean chucking out Merlina Suñas from the witness protection program and indicting Abad as a principal suspect.
Abad has been one of my news sources for many many years but never a friend. When he became budget secretary, I asked him during a briefing with foreign correspondents at FOCAP how he kept himself from being tempted to steal the people’s money. He replied that one way was by instituting systems that restricted the temptation to steal.
In contrast, there exists a paper trail against the three senators who have been arraigned in court. But there is no such thing in the case of Abad.
However, there are still questions Abad must answer.
First, how was Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos – who is now facing graft charges in connection with the Napoles scam – able to operate under Abad’s watch for so long? Abad told a FOCAP press briefing that he had streamlined the budget execution process early on to reduce temptation and corruption. What was not streamlined in the process that allowed the pork barrel scams to continue?
Second, when was the first time that Abad personally found out that the Napoles scam was going on, with the connivance of some people inside DBM? Please pinpoint at least the month and the year.
Third, how did Abad get to know Manuel Jarmin? How were Abad’s relations with Jarmin? Did Abad have any transactions with him while he was a congressman or education secretary or budget secretary? ?
Fourth, Abad has denied that the 2000 meeting between him and Napoles – witnessed by Jarmin and narrated by Janet Lim Napoles in her affidavit – ever took place. But did Abad ever meet Napoles in his life? Did Napoles ever contact Abad in his mobile phone? If she did, what was their conversation?
If Napoles was trying to frame Abad, it is perhaps the reason why she also wanted to testify at the Senate. Any testimony there against Abad cannot be taken against her later on before a court of law since she is clothed with immunity from suit.
The two signed and sworn affidavits of Janet Lim Napoles
Napoles’ accusation against Abad follows that Latin saying, falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus – or “false in one thing, false in everything”.