FORMER House Speaker and Davao City Representative Prospero Nograles is facing charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly participating in the anomalous utilization of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (Pdaf) while he took over as caretaker of the 1st district of Misamis Oriental.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, in a press statement, has ordered the filing of information against Nograles.
Nograles is set to face trial for three counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, malversation, and two counts for malversation through falsification of public documents.
Standing as co-accused of the former congressman before the Sandiganbayan is his chief-of-staff Jennifer Karen Lagbas and chief of the Public Affairs Office Danilo Jamito.
Also standing as co-accused are representatives from the National Agri-business Corporation (Nabcor) Allan Javellana, Encarnita C. Munsod, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson and Rhodora Mendoza.
The Ombudsman also included in the list representatives from National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) Gondelina Amata, Evelyn Sucgang, Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Ofelia Ordoñez and Sofia Cruz.
Other co-accused included Antonio Ortiz, Dennis Cunanan, Marivic Jover and Ma. Rosalinda Lacsamana from the Technology Resource Center (TRC); and one Marilou Antonio, Godofredo Roque, Maria Paz Vega, Marilou Ferrer, Rodrigo Doria, Flerida Alberto, Miraflor Villanueva, Melinda Guerrero and Carmelita Barredo.
Ombudsman investigators found that the anomaly originated during the tenure of former congressman Danilo Lagbas who passed away in 2008.
Morales said that documents showed that from year 2007 to 2009, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released P47,500,000 as part of Lagbas' Pdaf. Several non-government organizations were chosen to implement the Integrated Livelihood Projects (ILP) in the first district with Nabcor, TRC and NLDC as implementing agencies.
In the field verification conducted by the Ombudsman Field Investigation Unit in Mindanao, it was found that many of the livelihood project beneficiaries denied receipt of the livelihood technology kits and materials, grafted seedlings, hand tractors and water pumps.
The reported projects implemented through non-government organizations (NGOs) were allegedly supported by questionable and spurious documents. Suppliers also denied providing farm implements or issuing any invoices and receipts.
Lagbas and Nograles chose the following NGOs to implement the projects: Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc. (KKAMFI), Kasangga sa Magandang Bukas Foundation Inc., Gabay at Pag-asang Masa Foundation Inc. and the Buhay Mo, Mahal Ko Foundation Inc.
The Ombudsman also found from the documents and testimonies that upon the death of Lagbas, Nograles' predecessor, the latter did not only propose, select and identify the programs to be funded by the Pdaf allocation and that he also directly participated and intervened in the various phases of the project implementation.
Findings from the Commission on Audit (COA) revealed that the original receipts used by the alleged supplier, C.C. Barredo Publishing House, contained overlapping series numbers and that the supplier's authority to print receipts were used by two other establishments, G-Roy Enterprises and Ikaw at Ako Foundation Inc.
According to the resolution, "The chosen NGOs could not qualify for the grant of government funds since they failed to strictly comply with all the requirements needed in order to be considered eligible to implement government-funded projects."
On the issue of Lagbas' death, the Ombudsman explained that "his death in 2008 did not, in any way, extinguish the crime and probable guilt of the respondents".
Citing People versus Henry T. Go, the Ombudsman stated that "if circumstances exist where the public officer may no longer be charged in court, as in the present case where the public officer has already died, the private person may be indicted alone."
In so far as Nograles is concerned, "He took over as caretaker of the first district of Misamis Oriental and continued what had been started by Congressman Lagbas by signing the letter-request to NLDC for the immediate release of the PDAF allocation of P10,000,000 to KKAMFI.
Nograles, likewise, signed the MOA with NLDC and KKAMFI as well as the work financial plans and project proposal.”
Morales also directed that copies of the resolution be given to the Anti-Money Laundering Council for its immediate action on possible violations by the respondents of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.