A businesswoman accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds and surrendered to President Benigno Aquino in a Manila cemetery on Wednesday evening. Her claim that she reached out earlier to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle has been denied. Janet Lim Napoles finally gave herself up after her lawyer arranged her surrender over the phone with Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda, who met her in Heritage Park, Taguig City. Lacierda then took Napoles to the presidential palace where she met with Aquino whom she said she “trusted.” “She asked that she be placed in a secure place. She fears many are interested in silencing her permanently,” said her lawyer, Loma Kapunan. “Now that we got her we can bring her to court. We are doing our best to bring us closer to the truth,” said Lacierda. Napoles’ surrender was made hours after Aquino announced a 10 million peso ($224,000) reward for information leading to her capture. She is accused of helping lawmakers and senior military officials embezzle an estimated 10 billion pesos (US$230 million) in state development or “pork barrel” funds designed for spending on projects. Reports say that she has accumulated 28 houses in the Philippines along with a number of other assets, some of which her family own in the US. The office of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila on Wednesday denied reports that he received feelers from Napoles expressing her willingness to surrender with his help. Peachy Yamsuan, Tagle's communications officer, said the bishop did not receive a letter, nor did he talk with Napoles or to any of her emissaries including her lawyer Kapunan. But Kapunan said: "We would have wanted Cardinal Tagle to accept Mrs Napoles and be the one to cause her surrender to the appropriate authorities, but Cardinal Tagle did not take action." Her arrest comes three days after tens of thousands of people protested in Manila against the notorious “pork barrel” funds, an event at which Tagle called on Filipinos to respect and remember the poor. Some 200 million pesos (US$4.5 million) is allocated to each of the country’s 24 senators and 70 million pesos to 294 lower house lawmakers, supposedly for development projects in their constituencies. But a series of recent scandals and a probe by the government’s audit commission revealed missing funds, including some that were diverted to private bank accounts with less than 20 percent of monies found to have been used as declared.
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