Sep 062013

Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada admitted Friday that he was acquainted with Janet Lim Napoles, the detained businesswoman tagged as the mastermind of the P10 billion pork barrel scam.

In a report aired on GMA News’  “24 Oras,” newscast, the former president said that although he had encountered Napoles in a number of social gatherings, he does not know her personally.

“Na-meet ko siya sa isang party. Hindi ko nga nakausap eh. Baka nag-hi at hello kami, pero yun lang,” he said.

Estrada also confirmed that Cheryl Jimenea and Ruby Tuason, the women named by two new whistleblowers as having ties with Napoles, were his former employees. Jimenea worked as his former appointments secretary while Tuason was his social secretary.

The new whistleblowers, who came forward this week, said in an affidavit submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that they had met with Jimenea and Tuason in the past to make transactions on behalf of Napoles.

Estrada said that he has not communicated with either of the two women since they resigned from work.

“Ang alam ko [si Jimenea] pumasok sandali kay Jinggoy pagkaalis sa akin pero hindi rin siya nagtagal doon at umalis din. Pero si Ms. Tuason, hindi ko na nabalitaan kung kanino siya napunta. Syempre kapag may umalis akong empleyado, papasok sila sa ibang trabaho. Hindi ko na inaalam kung saan sila namamasukan,” Estrada said.

Jinggoy Estrada, the former president’s son, is one of the five senators identified by the Commission on Audit as those who gave portions of their pork barrel funds to Napoles’s non-government organizations. The others are Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Gringo Honasan, Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Napoles is detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for the alleged serious illegal detention of her former employee Benhur Luy, now a whistleblower in the pork barrel scam. A Makati Court Friday reset her arraignment for the case from September 9 to September 23.  —  XA/ELR, GMA News

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