VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte falsely links Trillanes’ mother to Napoles’ Kevlar deal

President Rodrigo Duterte’s allegation that Estelita Fuentes Trillanes, mother of former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, was in cahoots with pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles in the delivery of substandard Kevlar helmets to the Philippine Navy, is unfounded.


In a speech during the oath-taking ceremony of Davao City Vice Mayor Sebastian “Baste” Duterte, his youngest son, on June 21, the president said:

“Remember 'yung Kevlar? It's a helmet na matigas na hindi matamaan ng --- kung bala hindi masyado maka-penetrate. That's Kevlar. Ang nag-deliver noon ang nanay ni Trillanes pati si Napoles. 'Yan ang totoo diyan.

(Remember Kevlar? It's a helmet that's tough and not easily penetrated by a bullet. That’s Kevlar. Those who delivered that were Trillanes’ mother and Napoles. That’s the truth.)”

Source: RTVMalacanang Youtube, Oath-Taking Ceremony of Davao City Vice Mayor Sebastian Z. Duterte (Speech), June 21, 2019, watch from 39:17 to 39:38


Estelita’s name never appeared in court documents involving the anomalous P3.8-million Kevlar helmet deal.

It was not the first time that Duterte dragged Trillanes’ mother in supposed corruption in the Philippine Navy. In separate speeches in September and November 2018, the President claimed that Estelita and her spouse had been involved in illegal deals. Duterte has not presented any proof to support his allegations.

A staunch critic of Duterte, Trillanes said in a tweet that if his parents were involved in the Kevlar helmet anomaly, this should have been exposed by former House Speaker Gloria Arroyo during her presidency.

He said:

Wagas magsinungaling si Duterte kasi natatandaan pa ng mga tao na ang mga substandard na Kevlar helmets na yan ay isa sa mga issues na inireklamo namin nung Oakwood Incident. Kung may kinalaman ang mga magulang ko dyan, dapat nun pa lang, nilabas na ni GMA yan at ginamit laban sa kin. Regardless, ayon kay Duterte mahigit isang taon na iniimbestigahan ng iba't ibang ahensya ng gobyerno ang Nanay ko, pero ni isang dokumento ay wala syang mailabas para maiugnay sa kahit na anong iligal na transaksyon.

(That is an outright lie from Duterte because the people still remember that the [delivery of] substandard Kevlar helmets is one of the issues we raised during the Oakwood incident. If my parents had anything to do with that, it should have been used by GMA against me long ago. Regardless, according to Duterte, different agencies have been investigating my mother for more than a year, and yet not one document has been produced that could link [my mother] to any illegal transaction.)”

Source: @TrillanesSonny, Komo tameme si Duterte sa Recto Bank issue, June 21, 2019

Citing the Kevlar helmet anomaly, Trillanes wrote about corruption in the procurement system in the Philippine Navy as a graduate student at the UP Diliman Public Administration in 2002.

A report by the Fact Finding Commission found that grievances on graft and corruption in the military was one of the main reasons behind the Oakwood Mutiny in 2003, which was led by Trillanes, among others.

In 2010, the Sandiganbayan 4th Division en banc handed down a guilty verdict against Napoles’ kin along with other Philippine Marine officials and civilians for the dubious purchase of 500 Kevlar helmets.

The court convicted Magdalena Luy Lim (Napoles’ mother), Reynaldo Lim (Napoles’ brother), Anna Marie-Lim (Napoles’ sister-in-law) and other marines and civilians for falsification of public documents and malversation of funds.

Napoles was charged with graft for failing to deliver on time to the Marines fully paid US-made Kevlar helmets. Instead, she delivered inferior Taiwan-made helmets.

Seven bidders of the deal were also found to be Napoles’ dummies as 14 transactions amounting to P300,000 each were deposited to Napoles' bank account.

Napoles was acquitted along with six others, including former Marine Commandant Lt. Gen. Edgardo Espinosa, due to insufficient evidence showing that she participated in a conspiracy, despite proof of checks having been deposited to her account. She was also dismissed from the falsification charge.

Napoles was identified as the mastermind of the 2013 Priority Development Assistant Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.

ERRATUM: An earlier version of the article mistakenly identified former Associate Justice Gregory Ong as the ponente of the 2010 Sandiganbayan decision on the Kevlar helmet case. It was retired Associate Justice Jose R. Hernandez. We apologize for the mistake.


Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte During the Oath-Taking Ceremony of Davao City Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte, June 21, 2019

RTVMalacanang Youtube, Oath-Taking Ceremony of Davao City Vice Mayor Sebastian Z. Duterte (Speech), June 21, 2019

RTVMalacanang Youtube, Tete-A-Tete with Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo, Sept. 11, 2018

RTVMalacanang Youtube, Davao City Bulk Water Supply Project Construction Kick-Off, Nov. 29, 2019

@TrillanesSonny, Komo tameme si Duterte sa Recto Bank issue, June 21, 2019, Corruption in the Philippine Navy Procurement System, June 27, 2017

Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, Corruption in the Philippine Navy

GMA News Online, The Report of the Fact Finding Commission, July 30, 2003, WHAT WENT BEFORE: Oakwood Mutiny and Trillanes’ 2nd try to oust Arroyo, Sept. 4, 2018

GMA News Online, Oakwood Mutiny, July 20, 2007

Rappler, TIMELINE: Trillanes, from mutiny to amnesty, Sept. 15, 2018

Sandiganbayan, En Banc, Oct. 28, 2010

ABS-CBN News, Fast facts on Janet Lim Napoles, Nov. 7, 2013

Rappler, How Janet Napoles got away, Aug. 8, 2018, WHAT WENT BEFORE: Napoles and the pork barrel scam, Aug. 2, 2018, Pro-Napoles justice guilty, July 9, 2014

GMA News Online, Sandiganbayan Justice Gregory Ong dismissed over Napoles link, Sept. 23, 2014, Supreme Court: Dismissal of Sandigan Justice Ong final, Oct. 13, 2014

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)


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