By Peter Tabingo, August 24 2018; Malaya
Image Credit to Philstar.com
PROSECUTION star witness Benhur Luy yesterday said his cousin and former boss, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, used to host parties and sponsor trips to Hong Kong for officials of the Department of Budget and Management.
Luy made the statement at the continuation of his testimony in the graft trial of former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. in connection with allegations of misuse of the lawmaker’s Priority Development Assistance Fund, or “pork barrel” funds.
Prosecutors said the funds originally earmarked for livelihood programs and assistance to farmers were funneled to bogus non government organizations created by Napoles, alleged pork scam mastermind, and her employees.
The cases are being tried by the Sandiganbayan First Division.
Under direct examination by prosecutors, Luy said aside from parties and free trips abroad, Napoles also gave away gifts including food, branded bags, and even rosaries.
He said the gifts were given to then budget department officers Marilou Bare, Rosario Nunez, and Lalaine Paule, staff members of former Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos.
“There were bags, trays of fruits, and customized rosaries that we ordered,” Luy said.
He also recalled having delivered food from “Dampa” in Paranaque City to the same DBM personnel, as well as an invitation for them to a party thrown by Napoles at the Heritage Park in Taguig City.
On one occasion, Luy said he went with the DBM officers to a restaurant on Timog Avenue in Quezon City to sample dishes for an event that Napoles planned in advance.
“It was for the birthday of Usec Mario Relampagos which was hosted by Mrs. Napoles,” he said.
Relampagos and the other DBM executives were named codefendants in the graft charges but are contesting the allegations.
In January this year, lawyers for Relampagos informed the court that their client has decided to go into hiding in the United States after being granted a permit to travel.
They said that despite their appeals for him to return, the accused has made up his mind not to face trial as he can no longer afford legal expenses relative to more than 300 cases already filed against him.