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‘Napoles had lunch at Palace before she surrendered to PNoy’
By Francisco S. Tatad | Posted on September 16, 2013 at 12:01am | 41,086 views
Contrary to what the nation and the rest of the world have been led to believe, President Benigno S. Aquino III spent several hours in “closed- door conversations” with Janet Lim Napoles, the suspected mastermind in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam involving selected opposition lawmakers, before showcasing to the media her formal “surrender” to “the only person she trusted,” on the evening of August 28, 2013, authoritative sources have revealed.
This incredible detail was completely left out of Malacanang’s official statement, which had sought to present Aquino’s meeting with Napoles as no more than a 10-minute affair that ended an otherwise fruitless manhunt of a celebrated fugitive from justice, and was witnessed by several Cabinet members and duly recorded for posterity by the Malacanang press office.
The revelation is certain to be denied, for obvious reasons, but it comes from highly authoritative sources whose loyalty to Aquino is exceeded only by their loyalty to the truth and who shared the story with extreme pain and sadness. They just could not bear what to them is a “grand deception,” a deliberate and cold-blooded attempt to mislead and deceive the people on Malacanang’s real role and interest in the Napoles case.
To them, it affects the whole fabric of morality in government, and ultimately Aquino’s moral fitness to remain in office.
“This is worse than Nixon’s Watergate,” they said. “They’ve taken all of us for a ride, with no compunction or remorse. They are all morally bankrupt; they have no respect for the truth.”
Watergate refers to the 1972 U.S. political scandal, arising from the break-in at the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. and the Nixon administration’s attempt to cover up its involvement. It eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974, and the indictment, trial, conviction and jailing of 43 officials, many of them top government officials.
Until her celebrated “surrender”, which took the nation by surprise, the 49-year-old Napoles had been a fugitive, having gone into hiding from August 14 when the Makati Regional Court Branch 150 ordered her and her brother, Reynald “Jojo” Lim arrested, in connection with a charge filed by the National Bureau of Investigation for the alleged serious illegal detention of her 31-year-old cousin and former employee Benhur Luy.
Luy was an employee of Napoles’s JLN Group of Companies, said to be in charge of several projects funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund of lawmakers, some of which had been denounced as “scams.” However in March this year, Benhur’s parents Arturo and Gertrudes and siblings Arthur and Annabelle told Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that they had lost contact with him since last December. They believed he was being held against his will by Janet Lim Napoles and her brother Reynald in any of the places they owned or occupied. The Luys asked De Lima’s help in rescuing Benhur.
On March 22, 2013, NBI agents “rescued” Benhur and arrested Reynald Lim from a Napoles condominium in the South Wings Gardens of Pacific Plaza Tower at Bonifacio Global City. Luy then proceeded to execute affidavits, with five other whistle-blowers, describing Napoles’s alleged operations using the PDAF of senators and congressmen to fund ghost projects of bogus non-governmental organizations.
On April 17, 2013, Napoles wrote the President a letter saying, in part: “We write with feelings of utmost disappointment, desperateness, and extreme fear for our lives, as well as those of our loved ones, as a result of the continuous threats, intimidation, and even physical harm being inflicted upon us by several unscrupulous individuals, in cohorts (sic) with some ‘corrupt’ agents of the NBI.” This letter was reported to have been prepared with the assistance of the Executive Secretary’s former law office.
The letter was apparently read with uncharacteristic speed—some rather important letters to the President had been reported lost or gone unread. The next day De Lima directed the NBI to investigate Napoles’s allegations. The NBI denied the allegations.
On June 10, the DOJ dismissed the charge of illegal detention against Napoles and her brother for lack of probable cause. But the NBI moved for reconsideration, and the DOJ granted the motion.
On August 14, the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 issued a warrant for the arrest of Napoles and her brother. But they immediately went missing.
In an interview with a morning broadsheet much later, Aquino said he suspected Napoles had been tipped off on her impending arrest by somebody in the NBI, adding that the bureau had some “rats” in it—people who were “less trustworthy.” No less than the President was now accusing the NBI of aiding and abetting the suspect who had earlier accused the bureau of trying to do her harm. Unable to take this from the President, NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas resigned irrevocably on September 2, 2013.
By then Benhur Luy had become a primary source of media material about Napoles’s alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam over a period of 10 years, involving some lawmakers. Fueled by social media, public indignation against the alleged scam reached fever pitch in no time, and provoked massive anti-‘pork’ rallies in the country and abroad on Aug. 26. This prompted Aquino to order a manhunt from Manila to Mindanao, and announce a P10-million bounty on Napoles’s head, which hit the press on the morning of Aug. 28.
The Philippine Coast Guard, despite its limited capability, immediately launched its search for three “missing” yachts which Napoles reportedly owned and could have used to cross international waters. But on that very same day the fugitive turned up in Malacañang and “surrendered” to the President.
Here is the official chronology of the day’s events, as Lacierda presented it to the public:
August 28, 2013
12:37 pm—Reacting to Malacañang’s announcement of a bounty on Napoles’s head, her lawyer Lorna Kapunan said on television her client was willing to surrender. Lacierda heard the statement and called up Kapunan to confirm. (Lacierda and Kapunan used to work together in the same law firm around 1989-91.) Kapunan confirmed her statement, but said her client did not trust anyone and would surrender to Aquino only. Lacierda reported the conversation to Aquino, who reportedly said, “This is just another lead.”
4:06 pm—Kapunan called up Lacierda to say that her client was ready to surrender, provided her security was assured. Lacierda reported to Aquino, and the latter told Interior and Local Government Secretary Roxas to provide the necessary security measures. Lacierda said he was directed (he did not say by whom) to rendezvous with Kapunan in the vicinity of Pasong Tamo in Makati.
6:50 pm—Lacierda, accompanied by deputy spokesperson Abigal Valte and Communications Undersecretary Manolo Quezon III, left Malacanan on a vehicle provided by Roxas, with police escort. Kapunan telephoned Lacierda to direct him to proceed to White Space gallery on Pasong Tamo. There, Kapunan, accompanied by Jimmy Lim, Napoles’s brother, boarded Lacierda’s vehicle, and together they drove to Heritage Memorial Park at the Fort.
8:06 pm—They arrived at Heritage Park.
9:08 pm—Two women approached Lacierda’s vehicle and boarded it. One of them was Napoles.
9:37 pm—The group arrived at the Palace. Napoles was checked by a doctor, and then met with Aquino, who was with Roxas, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang, and Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima. The group talked for 10 minutes, during which Napoles thanked Aquino for her security.
Aquino reportedly told his Cabinet officials: “Tutal puyat na tayo, damay-damay na (Since we’re all up late anyway, we might as well see this through),” and then left the Palace ahead of the group to go to Camp Crame. “The President wanted to make sure the area was secured so he went to check the premises of the PNP headquarters,” Lacierda said.
Napoles rode with Lacierda, while the other Cabinet members followed behind.
That was how Lacierda narrated the Malacañang “surrender.”
However, highly critical sources said the official narrative completely omitted the most important part—Napoles’s nearly day-long “closed-door session” with Aquino, Roxas and other Cabinet members.
According to these sources, Napoles arrived at 10:30 am, all by herself, without her lawyer, but accompanied by Lacierda alone, who happens to be a lawyer. She was immediately conducted to what is known as the “Music Room” or “Ready Room” where she remained closeted with Aquino, Roxas and the Malacanang spokesman for the next six hours.
At lunch time, food was brought in by a secretary rather than the regular Malacañang waiters, and Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras joined the meeting. He was followed by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad at around 1 pm, and Ochoa a few minutes later. Between 2 pm and 3:30 pm, Aquino stepped out three times to meet some official callers, then finally left for an unknown destination.
At 4:30 pm, the meeting ended, and Lacierda left with Napoles, destination unknown.
Assuming every detail to be correct, Lacierda’s narrative does not conflict with the hitherto unreported six-hour meeting; it is but a sequel to the unexplained and inexplicable meeting in the morning. But Malacañang had gone to great lengths to make it appear that Napoles had not been there before her appearance that evening, and that she took not more than 10 minutes to “surrender.”
The sources said the doctor’s check on Napoles’s blood pressure and sugar level alone probably took as much time, if not longer. And Aquino spent most of his waking hours to act as Napoles’s advance security officer on her way to PNP headquarters.
The sources refused to divulge any part of the conversations they might have overheard, just as Malacanan has refused to disclose the content of the “warm and pleasant” exchange that took place between Aquino and Napoles during her “formal surrender.” But they raised a number of questions about the President’s actual role and involvement in the Napoles affair.
These are some of the questions:
What is the real relationship between the President and his trusted Cabinet members with Napoles?
How long has Aquino known her and been dealing with her? The photographs showing Aquino with the young Jeanne Napoles and with the Napoles family—purportedly taken in Cebu—may not mean very much on their own, but they tend to assume some evidentiary value in light of the six-hour meeting, the state-guest treatment, including a “handcuffs-free” arrest, of Napoles during and after her “surrender.”
Is Aquino a beneficiary or a benefactor of Napoles or both? How true are reports that she contributed P500 million to his 2010 presidential campaign, and at least P100 million to the Liberal Party 2013 senatorial campaign? Does Malacanan control Napoles, or does she control Malacanan?
Is Lacierda in particular Napoles’s real handler and protector? Although Lacierda has tried to make the public believe that his contact with Napoles was only through Atty. Kapunan, her lawyer, she appeared in Malacañang for the closed-door meeting with Aquino, Roxas and the others without Kapunan, but only with the presidential spokesman.
Does this mean Lacierda had direct access to and contact with Napoles during all the time she was supposed to be in hiding? Does it also mean that Lacierda guaranteed Napoles legal advice, in the absence of Kapunan?
Why was Secretary De Lima kept out of the “negotiations” on Napoles’ “surrender”? Wasn’t she the first one to officially suggest that Napoles might in fact surrender and act as a “state witness” in the expected cases of plunder? Is there any reason to suggest that Malacañang was, in fact, pissed off when the NBI decided to build a case against Napoles, with De Lima’s full approval?
What about the P10-million bounty? Wasn’t it merely a ploy to make it appear that Malacañang was intent on having Napoles arrested, even though she was free to sit in private conversation with the President and his trusted advisers?
What finally was discussed in those six hours of secret conversations? Did Aquino and his trusted advisers assure Napoles that Malacanang would do everything to protect her so long as she remained loyal to the President, Roxas and all the others?
What grand cover-up was cooked up in those secret conversations?
At press time, plunder charges have been filed against Napoles, five senators and 23 congressmen by Citizen Crime Watch before the Office of the Ombudsman. But not a single case is expected to prosper without the necessary witnesses to corroborate the documentary evidence. Did the conferees agree that these cases should not disturb anybody’s sleep unless one belonged to the opposition?
# End #
Edwardo Miguel Guevarra Roldan
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