OMBUDSMAN UPHOLDS INDICTMENT OF BIAZON, FOUR OTHER EX-SOLONS FOR PDAF SCAM

MANILA — Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has upheld the findings of probable cause to indict five former representatives and several others in connection with the Priority Development Assistant Fund (PDAF) scam.

In five separate orders released on Thursday, Morales directed the filing malversation and graft charges before the Sandiganbayan against former Reps. Rozzano Rufino Biazon (Muntinlupa City), Rodolfo Valencia (1st district of Oriental Mindoro), Marc Douglas Cagas IV (1st district of Davao del Sur), Arrel Olaño (1st district of Davao del Norte),and Arthur Pingoy, Jr. (2nd district of South Cotabato).

Also included in the charges were officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), including former ERC Chairperson Zenaida Ducut, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Technology Resource Center (TRC), National Business Corporation (NABCOR) and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including Janet Lim Napoles.

They were charged for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”, malversation and direct bribery

The five cases arose from separate complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Atty. Levito Baligod.

In upholding the June 22, 2015 resolution, Morales said that “after a considered review of the case records, this Office finds no merit in the motions for reconsideration as the grounds raised do not warrant a reversal or modification of the assailed Resolution.”

The Ombudsman found that Biazon anomalously utilized his 2007 PDAF by endorsing the amount of Php 3 million to the Philippine Social Foundation, Inc. (PSFI), an NGO associated and controlled by Napoles with Evelyn De Leon as its president.

It added that Biazon received the amount of Php 1.95 million as “rebates” through his agent, Zenaida Ducut, a former congresswoman and erstwhile ERC chairperson.

Biazon faces charges for malversation, violation of Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019, and direct bribery.

His co-accused in the malversation and graft charges are Ducut, De Leon, Napoles, Mario Relampagos, Dennis Cunanan, Antonio Ortiz and several others.

Napoles also faces a separate charge for corruption of public officials under Article 212 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

Records show that the amount of Php 3 million was covered by a Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) issued by the DBM in October 2007 sourced from Biazon’s PDAF.

Biazon identified the TRC as the implementing agency and PSFI as NGO-partner in a purported project for financial assistance for farm implements, livelihood materials and training, which turned out to be “ghost” projects since no deliveries were made.

Morales said that the findings in the Commission on Audit (COA) audit report confirm the whistleblowers’ testimonies.

Records show that no motion for reconsideration (MR) on the June 22, 2015 resolution was filed by Biazon, Ortiz and De Leon.

Valencia was charged with three counts of malversation and three counts of violation of Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019 in connection with the anomalous utilization of his Php 7-million PDAF from 2007 to 2009.

His co-accused are Celia Cuasay, Allan Javellana, Victor Roman Cacal, Napoles, Relampagos, Ortiz, Cunanan and several others.

In his MR, Valencia argued that “he is neither the custodian nor controller of the funds, nor the head of the agency who has the power to authorize the payment of PDAF funds.”

In dismissing the MR, Morales said that “the indictment against them stands.”

She added that “for a finding of probable cause to stand, it suffices that to the prosecutor’s mind, the act or omission complained of constitutes the offense charged and the respondents are probably guilty.”

Valencia’s PDAF from 2007 to 2009 were released by the DBM through three SAROs and facilitated through the TRC and NABCOR as Implementing Agencies (IAs), and released to the Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (MAMFI) as NGO-partner through several memoranda of agreement (MOA).

During his term as congressman, Valencia continuously endorsed the implementation of his PDAF-funded livelihood and agricultural projects through questionable NGOs associated with or controlled by Napoles.

The PDAF was anomalously used for livelihood and agricultural projects, skills training and distribution of livelihood kits.

The COA Special Audit disclosed that the IAs, including NABCOR and TRC, did not actually implement Valencia’s PDAF-funded agricultural and livelihood projects, and that the NGOs were dubious or non-existent.

The Ombudsman said that the findings in the 2007 to 2009 COA Report jibe with the whistleblowers’ testimonies and are validated by the COA audit results.

Witnesses Benhur Luy, Marina Sula and Merlina Suñas claimed that the foundations indorsed by Valencia were all dummies of Napoles.

They described that the payoffs for the kickbacks usually took place at the JLN office in Ortigas with Celia Cuasay, acting as Valencia’s representative, receiving the money.

The Ombudsman added that “Valencia received total commissions, rebates or kickbacks amounting to at least Php 2.4 million from his PDAF-funded projects in 2008.”

Cagas faces charges for two counts of malversation and two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019.

His co-accused are Ducut, Ortiz, Cunanan, Napoles, Relampagos, Jesus Castillo, Margarita Guadinez, Ireneo Pirater, Jocelyn Deiparine, John Raymond De Asis, Noel Macha and several others.

In his MR, Cagas argued that “he could not have misappropriated or consented to the misappropriation of his PDAF inasmuch as he neither had control nor was accountable for the said funds.”

He further argued that “the appointment of the implementing organizations, disbursement and utilization of his PDAF are not within his official functions as a lawmaker.”

In dismissing the MR, Morales said that the appeal was a “mere rehash of the arguments previously raised by them and already passed upon by this Office.”

Morales said that the respondents “contentions fail to persuade” as “the sworn statements of witnesses, disbursement vouchers, indorsed/encashed checks, MOAs with NGOs, written requests, liquidation reports and other evidence on record indubitably indicate that respondents conspired with one another to repeatedly raid the public treasury.”

The PDAF of Cagas from 2007 to 2009 amounting to Php 11 million covered by two SAROs engaged NABCOR and TRC as IAs with People Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc. (POPDFI) and Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (SDPFFI) as NGO-partners in supposedly implementing projects like the distribution of agricultural production and livelihood packages in the form of fertilizers, seeds and sprayers.

The COA Special Audit also disclosed that the implementing agencies, including NABCOR and TRC, did not actually implement Cagas PDAF-funded projects, and that the NGOs were dubious or non-existent.

The Ombudsman found that the documents submitted by the NGOs to the IAs such as disbursement, progress, accomplishment, fund utilization, inspection and delivery reports were all fabricated.

Per Luy’s records, Cagas received total commissions, rebates, or kickbacks amounting to at least Php 5.5 million from his PDAF-funded projects from 2007 to 2008, with payoffs usually taking place at the JLN office in Ortigas through his representative, Ducut, who would claim the same either personally or through fund transfers using Ducut’s account.

Olaño faces charges for three counts of malversation, three counts of violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 and direct bribery.

His co-accused in the malversation and graft charges are Napoles, De Leon, Relampagos, Cunanan, Francisco Figura, Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana, Marivic Jover, Maurine Dimaranan, Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule, Marilou Bare, Mylene Encarnacion, Eulogio Rodriguez, Consuelo Lilian Espirutu and several others.

Napoles also faces a separate charge for corruption of public officials under Article 212 of the RPC.

In his MR, Olaño argued that “he was not aware that PSDFI and the Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development (CARED) were Napoles-affiliated” and “that there is no evidence of the receipt of kickbacks.”

Morales said that the MR was “pro-forma and deserve scant consideration.”

She added that the “Office did not err in basing its finding of probable cause on the complaint as well as the supporting documents.”

Olaño’s PDAF totals to Php 7.97 million issued through several SAROs and he was found to have received commissions and kickbacks amounting to at least Php 3.175 million from Napoles.

The Ombudsman ruled that the projects on financial assistance for farm implements, livelihood materials and training turned out to be nonexistent.

It added that the findings in the COA audit report confirm the whistleblowers’ testimonies.

Pingoy and Ducut face charges for two counts of direct bribery, four counts each for malversation and violations of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019.

Their co-accused in the malversation and graft charges are Napoles, Cunanan, De Leon, Relampagos, Javellana, Ortiz, Rhodora Mendoza, Maria Ninez Guanizo, Roman Cacal, John Bernardo and several others.

Napoles also faces two counts of corruption of public officials under Article 212 of the RPC.

In seeking the dismissal of the charges, Pingoy argued in his MR that “he was not obliged to validate the existence of the NGOs” and that his “signatures were forged.”

In dismissing the MR, Morales ruled that “their contentions fail to persuade” and that the “matters of defense and evidence should be raised during trial proper.”

The charges were based on the illegal fund releases of Pingoy’s PDAF in the total amount of at least Php 20.91 million released through several SAROs.

The first three SAROs were coursed through the TRC while the last SARO was implemented through NABCOR, and were facilitated by bogus NGOs Philippine Social Development Foundation, Inc. (PSDFI) and SDPFFI.

The Ombudsman also found that Pingoy received commissions and kickbacks in the total amount of Php 7.05 million from Napoles, through Ducut.

The Ombudsman ruled that the projects on financial assistance for farm implements, livelihood materials and training turned out to be “ghost” projects, as confirmed by the whistleblowers’ testimonies and COA audit report.

Morales also ordered that copies of the resolutions and orders in the five cases be forwarded to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for immediate action on possible violations of the Anti-Money Laundering Act. Perfecto T. Raymundo/PNA/northboundasia.com