Yes, the anti-graft court could have prevented it all ten years ago.
A Rappler investigative report reveals that Janet Lim-Napoles, dubbed as pork barrel queen, should have been incarcerated for her involvement in a massive conversion scheme in the military. This scheme, initially believed to expedite battlefield requirements, was finally exposed in 2003, when two sons of the military comptroller Carlos Garcia, now in jail, were apprehended in the United States for smuggling thousands of dollars.
Rappler said Napoles learned to game the country’s bureaucratic system in the military where his husband worked as a military officer and where she hanged around with generals.
Prior to her alleged multi-billion pork barrel business, Ms Napoles was engaged in a “conversion” scheme in the military, a known practice designed to fast-track the delivery of supplies and battlefield requirements.
A retired senior Marine officer interviewed by Rappler said Napoles “was known in the Philippine Navy, being a regular fixture there.”
Like the pork barrel scam which involves bogus foundations and NGOs, the conversion involved ghost deliveries by suppliers– on paper– to formalize transactions, securing both the suppliers and their military counterparts get a cut in the deal.
Napoles was also involved in an earlier case in 1999 regarding the anomalous procurement of 500 Kevlar helmets, which were found by the anti-graft court to be substandard.
The anti-graft court found there was conspiracy among the accused military officers and the suppliers to falsify public documents. These accused were sentenced to 4 to 8 years in prison and a fine of P5,000 each.
However, the court acquitted Napoles and Lt Gen Edgardo Espinosa who was the PMC commandant at the time.
In acquitting Napoles, the anti-graft court pointed out “she was not one of the dealer-payees in the transaction” and on this basis, “her participation as a private individual becomes remote. “
The court added that “even if she owns the bank account where the 14 checks were later deposited, this does not in itself translate to her conspiracy in the crime charged in the information absent evidence of an overt act on her part.”
Rappler found similarities between the Napoles’ pork barrel scheme and the Kevlar case.
Based on court records and its interviews with sources, Rappler found the following:
- Similar to the pork barrel scheme, the case before the Sandiganbayan involved the ghost delivery of helmets, with Napoles as the final recipient of the money. 14 checks issued as payments to 7 supposed winning bidders were all deposited in her Security Bank account.
- Falsified documents were submitted to show proof of deliveries. It was only after the ghost deliveries were found out that Napoles delivered 500 Kevlar helmets in two tranches. Still, they were branded as substandard.
- Owners of the supposed winning firms were apparent dummies of Napoles. Still, the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan were apparently clueless about the ties of Napoles with the alleged civilian suppliers. The court decision made no mention of the fact that Reynaldo Francisco, Magdalena Francisco and Anna Marie Dulguime were all related to her.
- The prosecution could have missed this crucial link because the suppliers, including Napoles’ family members, used a different surname (their mother’s maiden name) and addresses which were later found to be non-existent. Husband and wife Reynaldo and Anna Marie used different addresses for purposes of serving court summons. It was only when they applied for a probation order that the couple used the same address.
Indeed, the highly intriguing case of Napoles did not just expose multi-billion peso pork barrel scam; it also exposed the utter weakness of our justice system.