Arroyo, 23 others slapped with plunder-A A +A
Thursday, October 3, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and 23 other people were charged with plunder on Thursday before the Office of the Ombudsman for the alleged misuse of P900 million taken from the government's share in the Malampaya gas project in Palawan.
But the whistleblower’s lawyer, Levito Baligod, clarified that Arroyo did not receive kickbacks for issuing Executive Order 848 on October 13, 2009 that allowed the use of the fund for rehabilitation of areas affected by storms “Ondoy and “Pepeng” that year.
“The whistleblowers did not say anything (about Arroyo receiving commissions from Malampaya fund),” he told reporters.
Still, the complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) stated that Arroyo and then Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita should be held liable for issuing the Palace directive that “invalidly liberalized” the utilization of the Malampaya fund.
Arroyo issued the order five days after former Budget secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. asked her permission to use the fund for purposes other than energy resource development and exploitation programs.
“The lack of specificity in Arroyo’s and Ermita’s identification of the authorized purpose by which DBM access DOE SAGF-151 resulted in the almost discretionary, if not arbitrary, granting of implementing agency requests for millions of pesos in funds by the DBM, without the submission of any agency work or development plan showing that the funds will actually be used for the purpose authorized by the President,” read the complaint’s executive summary.
“This leniency of control displayed by the former President in the use of and access to an essentially presidential discretionary fund made possible the plunder of such fund, either intentionally or through gross inexcusable negligence,” the summary added.
Also charged with plunder were Ermita, Andaya, former Agrarian Reform secretary Nasser Pangandaman, former DAR undersecretary Narciso Nieto, former Department of Agrarian Reform Finance and Management Service (DAR-FMS) director and officer-in-charge Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) Secretariat Teresita Panlilio, Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, Candaba Mayor Rene Maglanque, Angelita Cacananta, Nilda Baui, Dominador Sison Jr. and Ronald Venancio, Ruby Tuason and businesswoman Janet Napoles, the alleged brains of the scam involving the use of 12 fake non-government organizations (NGOs) as implementers of ghost projects.
Napoles was earlier charged with plunder, along with some lawmakers, before the Ombudsman for using fake foundations as recipients of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF).
Of the P900 million, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said P337.77 million went to the pockets of government officials. Pangandaman allegedly received P75 million in cash from Napoles and through Maglanque’s bank withdrawal.
Tuason got a whopping P242.775 million for a “still unidentified principal” while Panlilio and Nieto had P14 million and P6 million, respectively.
Completing the list of respondents were the presidents and employees of Napoles NGOs, namely, Evelyn De Leon, Jesus Castillo (JLN Corp. driver), Dalangpan Sang Amon Utod Kag Kasimanwa Foundation; Lilian Espanol (househelp) of Saganang Buhay Sa Atin Foundation Inc.; Genevieve Uy (family friend) Kasaganahan Para Sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.; Ronald John Lim (nephew) Ginintuang Alay Sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.; Eulogio Rodriguez (JLN Corporate Driver), Ginintuang Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc.; Lorna Ramirez (wife of JLN security), Masaganang Buhay Foundation Inc.; Ronald Lim (JLN brother), Micro Agri Business Citizens Initiative Foundation Inc.; and John Raymund de Asis (JLN security), Kaupdan Para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc.
The NBI, which leaned on documents and statements from the Napoles’ former employees and local officials, said the businesswoman prepared documents needed to corner DAR funds as early as July 2009.
She then directed her directed her staff in JLN to manufacture the necessary documents for submission to DAR, including fake letter-requests from 97 mayors whose farmer-beneficiaries are supposed to be recipients of the projects to be financed by the Malampaya fund.
Nieto signed the memorandums of agreement and checks corresponding to the amounts requested in the fake letter-requests. These checks were released and deposited to the NGOs. Once cleared, the cash is withdrawn and remitted directly to Napoles
The NBI said liquidation reports submitted to DAR were fake, including the signatures of mayors. Napoles’ employees also had a bogus list of beneficiaries, which included a Supreme Court magistrate who was allegedly given a bolo, a shovel and assorted seeds.
“In sum, the DAR Malampaya fund projects intended to rehabilitate farmer-beneficiary victims of typhoons ‘Ondoy’ and ‘Pepeng’ were all ghost projects with no delivery whatsoever,” the complaint stated.
Damage and losses from the two storms were pegged at $4.38 billion (P206 billion) or equivalent to 2.7 percent of the country’s economy in 2009, according to the Post Disaster Needs Assessment report released by the World Bank. (With reports from Glaiza Jarloc/Sunnex)