Ombudsman raps former solon, 25 others for PDAF misuse

MANILA — Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the filing before the Sandiganbayan of charges against former House Speaker Prospero Nograles and 25 others for their involvement in the alleged anomalous utilization of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Nograles is set to face trial for three counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”, one count of malversation and two counts of malversation thru falsification of public documents.

Standing as co-accused are Nograles’ chief of staff Jennifer Karen Lagbas and chief public affairs officer Danilo Jamito; National Agri-business Corporation (NABCOR) representatives, Allan Javellana, Encarnita Cristina Munsod, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Rhodora Mendoza; National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) representatives, Gondelina Amata, Evelyn Sucgang, Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Ofelia Ordoñez, Sofia Cruz; Technology Resource Center (TRC) representatives, Antonio Ortiz, Dennis Cunanan, Marivic Jover and Ma. Rosalinda Lacsamana; Marilou Antonio, Godofredo Roque, Maria Paz Vega, Marilou Ferrer, Rodrigo Doria, Flerida Alberto, Miraflor Villanueva, Melinda Guerrero and Carmelita Barredo.

Ombudsman probers traced the anomaly as originating during the tenure of former Congressman Danilo Lagbas who passed away in 2008.

Documents showed that from 2007 to 2009, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released PHP47.5 million as part of Lagbas’ PDAF.

Several non-government organizations (NGOs) were chosen to implement the Integrated Livelihood Projects in the 1st 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/materials, grafted seedlings, hand tractors and water pumps.

The reported projects implemented through the NGOs were supported by questionable and spurious documents.

Suppliers also denied providing farm implements or issuing any invoices and receipts.

Lagbas and Nograles chose the four NGOs to implement the projects such as the Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation, Inc. (KKAMFI), Kasangga sa Magandang Bukas Foundation, Inc. (KMBFI), Gabay at Pag-asa ng Masa Foundation, Inc. (GPMFI) and the Buhay Mo Mahal Ko Foundation, Inc. (BMMKFI).

The Ombudsman also found from the documents and testimonies that Lagbas, and upon his death, Nograles allegedly did not only propose, select, identify the programs to be funded out of the PDAF allocation, but also directly participated and intervened in the various phases of the project implementation.

Findings from the Commission on Audit (COA) disclosed 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.

In the approved resolution, the Ombudsman said that “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 said that “his death (in 2008) did not, in any way, extinguish the crime and probable guilt of the respondents.”

Citing the case of People of the Philippines versus Henry T. Go, the Ombudsman said 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.”

Insofar as Nograles is concerned, the Ombudsman said, “he took over as caretaker of the 1st 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 PHP10,000,000.00 to KKAMFI. Nograles likewise signed the MOA with NLDC and KKAMFI as well the work financial plans and project proposal.”

Ombudsman Morales also ordered that copies of the resolution be given to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for its immediate action on possible violations by the respondents of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.