Ombudsman dismisses from service 12 respondents in PDAF scam raps

MANILA — Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the dismissal from the service of 12 respondents for their alleged involvement in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

This was after they were found guilty of grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and dishonesty.

Dismissed were Jessica Lucila Reyes (Chief of Staff, Office of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile), Jose Antonio Evangelista II (Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of Senator Enrile), Victor Roman Cacal (Paralegal, National Agribusiness Corporation), Gondelina Amata (President, National Livelihood Development Corporation), Chita Jalandoni (Department Manager III, NLDC), Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal (Director IV, NLDC), Ofelia Ordoñez (Cashier, NLDC), Filipina Rodriguez (Budget Officer, NLDC), Sofia Cruz (Project Development Assistant IV), Dennis Cunanan (Director General, Technology Resource Center), Consuelo Lilian Espiritu (Budget Officer, TRC) and Marivic Jover (Chief Accountant, TRC).

The dismissal order carries with it the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office and forfeiture of all retirement benefits.

In the event of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondent’s salary for one year.

Reyes, et. al. are also being tried before the Sandiganbayan for their alleged involvement in the anomalous utilization of the 2007 to 2009 PDAF of former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

Probe found that from 2004 to 2010, Enrile continuously endorsed the implementation of his PDAF-funded livelihood and agricultural production projects in different parts of the country to questionable Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) associated with or controlled by Janet Lim Napoles.

Napoles is the alleged “brains” behind the PHP10-billion pork barrel and the PHP900-million Malampaya Fund scams.

From 2007 to 2009, a total of PHP345 million was released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as part of Enrile’s PDAF.

After the fund release, Enrile identified the NABCOR, NLDC and TRC as implementing agencies.

To facilitate the scam, Enrile, through Reyes, authorized Evangelista to act for the Senator, deal with the parties involved in the process and sign documents necessary for the immediate and timely implementation of his PDAF-funded projects.

Enrile also endorsed the following NGOs as project partners:

— Agri and Economic Program for farmers Foundation Inc.; — Agricultura para sa Magbubukid Foundation, Inc.; — Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation, Inc.; — Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation; — People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation, Inc.; and — Social Development Program for Farmer’s Foundation, Inc.

The PHP345-million fund was allegedly used to buy tools and implements, financial grants and subsidies, technical assistance technology transfer through video courses (VCDs), printed materials, vegetable seeds, hand tools, gloves, masks, vests, caps, garden tools, knapsack sprayers, fertilizer, gardening packages, rakes, agricultural livelihood packages, agricultural chemicals, and small scale agri-packages.

Actual field validation conducted by the Ombudsman found that no deliveries were made to the supposed beneficiaries.

Mayors and municipal agriculturists denied receiving any of the items from the Office Senator Enrile, the implementing agencies or any of the NGOs.

The Commission on Audit (COA) observed that the NGOs that received the multi-million peso PDAF releases did not have the track record to implement the projects; the selection of the NGOs, as well as the alleged procurement of goods for distribution of beneficiaries did not undergo public bidding; the suppliers denied having dealt with any of the NGOs; and the reported beneficiaries were unknown or could not be located at their given addresses.

Likewise, whistleblower Benhur Luy’s records showed that “Enrile received, through respondents Reyes and Ruby Tuason, total commissions, rebates or kickbacks amounting to at least PHP172,834,500.00.”

In the ruling approved by Ombudsman Morales, she said that “based on testimonial and documentary evidence presented, the widespread misuse of the PDAF allotted to a legislator was coursed through a complex scheme basically involving projects supposed to have been funded by said PDAF which turned out to be inexistent or “ghost projects.”

Morales added that “in most instances, the disbursement vouchers (DV) were accomplished, signed and approved on the same day. Certainly, the required careful examination of the transaction’s supporting documents could not have taken place if the DV was processed and approved in one day.”