In her own words: How Janet Napoles started
Camille Diola (The Philippine Star) - May 27, 2014 - 4:20pm

From humble beginnings to being an 'ordinary' businesswoman; from scam player to 'scapegoat' of lawmakers

MANILA, Philippines — "Pork barrel" scam operator Janet Lim Napoles only reached high school but her simple background and education did not deter her from pursuing her "dreams."

"Bata pa lamang ako ay natuto na 'kong maghanap-buhay. Sa biyaya ng Diyos, sa aking tiyaga, sipag at pawis, at sa tulong ng mga taong nakilala ko, ito ay aking napalago hanggang sa aking narating ngayon," Napoles said in her signed extended affidavit submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday.

She said her drive to help others and work hard was inspired by her late mother, Magdalena Lim. Her remains now lie in a mausoleum at Heritage Park reportedly worth P30 million.

Napoles said she entered various small businesses, specializing in sales, before she was able to buy her own company.

Among her first ventures was as an exclusive distributor in the Philippines of Nutrigrowth, a manufacturer of liquid foliar fertilizers.

She later bought the Philippine arm of the company after a few years, but abandoned the brand after it ran into some "problems." Napoles then put up another fertilizer company called Dragon 1.5 Mega Philippines.

In her affidavits, she made no mention of the military background of her husband, Jimmy, nor deny reports that her first anomalous business was with the armed forces.

A fateful meeting

The entrepreneur was looking for ways to expand her products and business "just like any other businesswoman" would, when she claimed to be introduced to then Batanes Rep. Florencio "Butch" Abad, now Budget secretary, around 2000.

She alleged that Abad offered her P10 million for a livelihood project where she would be a supplier.

In the meeting, Abad received an initial P2 million from Napoles, who doubled the amount when a cash allocation notice was released for the project.

"Afterwards, when we talked about the implementation, he asked me if I had an NGO (non-government organization). When I told him I did not have an NGO, he told me he would take care of it," Napoles claimed.

Abad, however, returned the P4 million he received and padded it with an additional P2 million when the project was implemented under the Batanes Electric Cooperative based in Basco town.

"That is when I started to transact using the PDAF," Napoles said, referring to lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund allocation.

Also see: 18 senators in final list | Napoles tags 100 congressmen

In the 33-page document, Napoles decried being called the "mastermind" of the multibillion-peso government fund scam as she is only a "victim" of a corrupt system.

"Akala ko noon ay normal at tama at naaayon sa batas, dahil ito ay naging kalakaran na sa mahabang panahon," Napoles said.

"Ang akala ko po, ang lahat ng aking ginagawa ay naaayon sa batas sapagkat ang mga kausap ko ay mga mambabatas, kanilang mga kinatawan at matataas na opisyal ng ating bansa at marami rin naman ang gumagawa ng ganitong transaksyon," she added.

In her first sworn statement submitted to the DOJ earlier this month, Napoles claimed she does not have to skill to run a "complicated scheme" such as in embezzling PDAF given her humble beginnings.

"I am only an ordinary private businesswoman," she claimed.

"I neither have the power nor the authority to order the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release documents as well as command the implementing agencies to choose any foundation or non-governmental organization," Napoles added.

Associating with NGOs

Napoles said that she was surprised, though confused at the same time, that government implementing agencies do not grant projects to companies, but only to foundations.

The NGOs were controlled by officials in the agencies, offering them "for rent."

Dennis Cunanan, a ranking official at conduit agency Technology Resource Center, was allegedly among those who rented out foundations to companies.

Napoles, however, feared that she would get in trouble if the the NGOS-for-rent would be deemed fake and decided to "associate" herself with legal ones.

"I heard the incorporators they use are either dead or not existing," she said.

"That's why as far as I know, the NGOs I am associated with strictly complied with the registration and other requirements of the law," Napoles claimed.

The detained businesswoman did not mention if she established the NGOs herself.

She also denied that the NGOs she was with are bogus, belying reports that she is linked to more than 70 NGOs.

Transacting with lawmakers' agents

Representatives of lawmakers and other officials began offering her projects for a guaranteed amount of "rebate" or commission for them and their bosses ranging from 5 to 10 percent of the total project cost.

Some agents, such as PDAF-linked plunder case state witness Ruby Tuason and former Agrarian Reform Assistant Secretary Catherine May Santos, would demand a share of over 15 percent for themselves and another 40 percent in kickbacks for the requesting senator or congressman.

"I really have no say as to the amount, since if I don't agree, they would just offer the project to someone else," Napoles said.

"The rebate used to be just 20 percent, which later on became 30 percent until 50 percent depending on what they demand," she continued.

She also explained that the requesting legislator would also choose which agency the funds would be coursed through.

Napoles said that Patricia Gay Tan, another supposed agent, was also engaged in projects, which she later on discovered to have irregularities.

"I also found out that she would use the NGOs associated with me, so I would be the one to have problems," Napoles said.

She alleged that Tan is behind the ZNAC Rubber Estate Corporation and Pangkabuhayan Foundation anomalies detected by the Commission on Audit.

Napoles insisted that she is being used by lawmakers and officials as a "scapegoat" to drive public scrutiny away from them.

"Hindi po ako ang 'mastermind' ng pork barrel [scam], sapagkat hindi ako ang nagpasimula nito at matagal na ang ganitong kalakaran o sistema," she said in the extended affidavit.

"Sumunod lang ako sa mga alituntunin, pamamaraan at patakaran ng mga ahensya ng gobyerno," Napoles added.

ABAD AGRARIAN REFORM ASSISTANT SECRETARY CATHERINE MAY SANTOS BATANES ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE BATANES REP DENNIS CUNANAN DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT NAPOLES NGOS
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