3 senators face plunder cases over pork barrel mess-A A +A
Monday, September 16, 2013
MANILA (3rd Update) -- Senators who have been repeatedly linked to the alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) will now be investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman for possible filing of cases in the Sandiganbayan.
This developed after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed on Monday plunder cases against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. for conniving with detained businesswoman Janet Napoles to pocket huge chunk of pork barrel funds.
Napoles, currently in police custody for alleged serious illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy, was also charged with plunder, malversation and corruption of public officials.
Thirty-four people, consisting of past and present government officials, employees and Napoles' cohorts, completed the list of respondents.
Also charged with plunder were former Masbate eepresentative now Governor Rizalina Lanete and former Apec partylist representative Edgar Valdez.
Plunder, which involves the misuse of at least P50 million in taxpayers' money, is a non-bailable offense and punishable by life imprisonment, forfeiture of assets and disqualification from entering government service.
The amount of money allegedly amassed by each lawmaker representing kickbacks received from Napoles is as follows: Enrile (P172,834,500), Revilla (P224,512,500), Estrada (P183,793,750), Lanete (P108,405,000), and Valdez (P56,087,500).
Those involved in malversation, direct bribery and other graft and corrupt practices were former Agusan del Sur Representative Rodolfo Plaza (P42.14 million out of the P79.5-million PDAF allocation), former Benguet representative Samuel Dangwa (P26.77 million out of the P54 million PDAF-allocation) and former Cagayan de Oro representative Constantino Jaraula (P20.84 million out of the P50.5 million-PDAF allocation).
"In order to accomplish all this, the lawmakers took advantage and abused their official position and authority as senators and congressmen of the Republic, thereby unjustly enriching themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the people and the Republic," read the executive summary prepared by the NBI.
The chiefs-of-staff or representatives of lawmakers charged along with their bosses were Gigi Reyes (Enrile), Richard Cambe (Revilla), Ruby Tuason (representative of Enrile/Estrada), Pauline Labayen (Estrada), Jose Sumalpong (Lanete), Jeanette dela Cruz (Dangwa), and Carlos Lozada (Dangwa).
Heads of agencies facing plunder or malversation, bribery and graft and corrupt practices were Alan Javellana (former president, National Agribusiness Corp.), Gondelina Amata (president, National Livelihood Development Corp.), Antonio Ortiz (former Director General, Training and Research Center), Dennis Cunanan (Director General, TRC), and Salvador Salacup (former president, ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp.and Assistant Secretary, Department of Agriculture).
Plunder and malversation cases were pursued against presidents of Napoles NGOs, namely, Jocelyn Piorato (Agricultura para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc.), Nemesio Pablo (Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc.), Mylene Encarnacion (Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation Inc.), Evelyn de leon (Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc.), and Ronald John Lim (Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation).
The following officials and employees "largely" involved in plunder or malversation, bribery or graft and corrupt practices by conspiracy were Victor Cacal (Nabcor), Romulo Revelo (Nabcor), Ma.Ninez Guanizo (Nabcor), Julie Johnson (Nabcor), Rodhora Mendoza (Nabcor), Alexis Sevidal (NLDC), Sofia Cruz (NLDC), Chila Jalandoni (NLDC), Francisco Figura (TRC) and Marivic Jover (TRC).
At a press briefing, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she will issue a lookout bulletin against the 38 respondents but these individuals cannot be barred from leaving the country.
Bank accounts of lawmakers involved in the scam may also be scrutinized by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) as long as the Department of Justice (DOJ) will get the permission of the Court of Appeals. De Lima said they will file the petition soon.
The DOJ and the NBI submitted the complaints, along with a truckload of documentary evidence, at the Ombudsman past 3:30 p.m. Luy was present to subscribe to his affidavit.
No copy of the complaint was given to the media.
The complaints leaned on the accounts of the 16 whistleblowers -- some of them former employees of Napoles in JLN Corp. -- and the special audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA), where non-government organizations (NGOs) linked to Napoles cornered P2.157 billion in pork barrel from 2007 to 2009.
Documents gathered from the COA, Department of Budget and Management, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and implementing agencies such as special allotment release orders (Saros), memorandum of agreements, notice of cash allocations, vouchers, and among others were also used to back up the complaints.
Three teams with 15 members each were tasked by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to analyze, validate and make recommendations based on the information gathered by the NBI.
No timetable was set to finish the investigation as requests for interview regarding the merits of the case were junked.
"Statements or information that may be prematurely disclosed could unduly prejudice the proceedings insofar as alerting the custodians of vital documents and undermining the security of possible witnesses," the Ombudsman said.
Developments about the case, however, will be released to media from time to time.
Specifically, the Ombudsman will evaluate the complaint and accompanying case records to determine whether there is a need to proceed to preliminary investigation or conduct further fact-finding probe, where the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council (IAAGCC) Task Force may be tapped to assist.
The period of evaluation would depend on the complexity of the case.
The filing, which was two hours behind schedule, was preceded by a mass for the witnesses at the NBI headquarters in Manila.
Outside the Ombudsman, anti-corruption groups led by Akbayan partylist blew whistles to express their support to the witnesses who exposed the large-scale fraud and brought placards criticizing the senators involved.
The groups called on Morales to conduct a swift prosecution of the case, saying this is the "litmus test" of the justice system under the last three years of President Benigno Aquino III.
Luy detailed last week how taxpayers’ money ended up in the hands of lawmakers, Napoles and contacts in implementing agencies. By allowing any of Napoles’ 10 fake NGOs as recipients of PDAF, a lawmaker is assured of a 50 percent cut.
Napoles will get 40 percent and officials in state agencies will receive 10 percent. Kickbacks for chiefs of staff of legislators depend on the businesswoman’s discretion.
"In the end, there is really nothing to monitor, because all the funds that were supposed to be used for the project had in reality already been pocketed by the lawmaker," the NBI said.
The NBI said Napoles, the head of the implementing agency, the lawmaker's chief of staff and probably other officials whose signatures were needed to facilitate the scam and were bribed to "look the other way."
"This is the very reason why no among the actors, who are all responsible for ensuring the legitimate use of public funds through the actual implementation of projects at full cost of the funds released therefore, take no action or interest whatsoever in performing this obligation," the summary stated.
Minority senators led by Enrile earlier denied responsibility for checking the legitimacy of NGOs as they passed the buck to the implementing agencies. The bloc said the national budget allows the transfer of funds to NGOs and other civil society groups subject to conditions.
The NBI will file cases related to the misuse of proceeds from Malampaya gas project next week and the second batch of pork barrel-related cases will be forwarded to the Ombudsman in the coming days.
A teary-eyed Revilla said he is prepared to air his side at the proper time and the proper venue.
"Ang hiling ko lang sa sambayanan huwag kaming husgahan, papaliwanag namin (My plea to the public is not to judge us. We will explain)," he told reporters.
Estrada said he will not hide abroad and expressed confidence his lawyers can show he did not misuse his pork barrel.
"I trust that the day will come, after the presentation of all documents and evidence in connection with the PDAF controversy, that it will be clear to all, that the accusation against me are all unfounded," he said.
Senator Vicente Sotto III said Enrile was rushed to the hospital last Saturday due to hypertension. Enrile was not at Monday's session, radio reports said.
"According to former representative Jack Enrile, his father, Minority Floor Leader Juan Ponce Enrile was brought to the Makati Medical Center early last Saturday morning after the latter complained of difficulty urinating. As a result, his blood pressure became elevated. Doctors found an obstruction in his urethra which was immediately removed. The Senator was supposed to be discharged this afternoon but doctors advised him to stay for another day for observation," a statement from the Office of Senator Enrile sent to reporters Monday read.
Interviewed on ANC hours before the filing of complaints, Senate President Franklin Drilon said Congress will respect and follow the processes in seeking accountability from those who allegedly misused public funds.
“We see this as part of the cleansing process. We are confident and we will exert every effort so that we can restore the confidence of our people in this institution of democracy called Congress. It is a difficult process, but we have to go through this,” he said.
He assured that the issue will not affect their legislative work.
The Senate is set to debate next week the controversial freedom of information bill, a measure seen by civil society as tool against graft and corruption for its emphasis on institutionalizing transparency in governance. (Virgil Lopez/JK/CPT/Sunnex)