THE Office of the Ombudsman indicted former Northern Samar representative Emil Ong before the Sandiganbayan for his alleged involvement in the P62-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
Twenty-four other individuals, including former Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary Esperanza Cabral, are facing multiple criminal charges for the misuse of Ong’s PDAF budget for the year 2007 to 2009.
In a resolution released Friday, July 21, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the filing against Ong of 19 counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019), 12 counts of malversation through falsification of public documents, and seven counts of malversation.
The other DSWD officials who were charged were Undersecretary Luwalhati Pablo, Assistant Secretary Mateo Montaño, Director Deseree Fajardo, staff members Joselita Enciso, and Leonila Hayahay.
The Ombudsman also ordered the inclusion in the charge sheet of the representatives of implementing agencies (IA), National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) representatives Gondelina Amata, Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Chita Jalandoni, Gregoria Buenaventura, Ofelia Ordoñez, Sofia Cruz and Filipina Rodriguez; National Agri-Business Corporation (Nabcor) representatives Alan Javellana, Rhodora Mendoza, Victor Roman Cacal, Maria Ninez Guañizo and Romulo Relevo; nongovernment organization (NGO) representatives Roberto Solon of the Economic and Social Cooperation for Local Development Foundation Inc. (Ecosoc), Margie Luz and Ma. Cristina Vizcarra of Gabaymasa Development Foundation Inc. (GDFI), and Rowena Adriano and Nestor Serdeña of Interactive Training Opportunity Needs Alleviations Movement Inc. (Itonami).
Also included as co-accused was Ong’s representative Jesus Acebuche.
The multi-million peso funds were supposed to benefit the congressman’s constituents in the second district of Northern Samar in the form of livelihood capital assistance, distribution of fruit and vegetable seedlings, vermi-culture livelihood training packages, distribution of off-season vegetables, trainings, and manuals.
Ong earlier requested the DSWD, Nabcor and NLDC to act as IAs with Ecosoc, GDFI and Itonami as NGO project-implementers.
The Ombudsman found the projects turned out to be non-existent or “ghost projects” facilitated by Ong and his cohorts.
The Ombudsman said local officials in Northern Samar’s second district attested that “they were not even aware of the projects” and that “they denied receiving anything from the office of Ong or any of the project partners.”
“As part of the cover-up, respondents submitted fake documents to support the liquidation such as project reports, distributions lists of beneficiaries, receipts, certificates of acceptance and inspection,” the resolution said.
Ombudsman investigators also ascertained that the alleged suppliers denied transacting with respondents, while others were not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission or with the Department of Trade and Industry.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue has no records of any tax returns, tax clearances, audited financial statements and/or financial reports of any of the NGOs or alleged suppliers. Also, there was no public bidding conducted for the procurement of farm implements and livelihood projects.
Ong failed to file any counter-affidavit despite filing several motions of extension of time.
According to Morales, “despite this irregularity, Ong endorsed these NGOs as the project implementers. He entered into MOAs with the IAs and the NGOs, approved the project proposals, and thereafter, continuously sought the release of the funds in the NGO’s favor. His representative, Acebuche, assisted him in perpetrating the fraud by signing a certificate of acceptance in his behalf.”
The DSWD officers and employees released the funds to the NGOs with unusual accommodation, as it did not conduct any verification of the implementation of the projects.
The resolution stated that “to be able to repeatedly divert substantial funds from the PDAF, access thereto must be made available, and this was made possible by Ong who indorsed ECOSOC, GDFI and Itonami to implement his PDAF-related undertakings. Ong sent or caused the sending of the requisite endorsement letters and similar documentation to DBM, DSWD, NABCOR and NLDC, acts which were necessary to ensure that the preferred NGOs would be awarded the project.”
In the related administrative case, the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal from the service of Pablo, Montaño, Fajardo, Enciso, Amata, Jalandoni, Sevidal, Buenaventura, Ordoñez, Cruz and Rodriguez.
They were found guilty of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and were meted the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility and forfeiture of retirement benefits. (SunStar Philippines)