Ombudsman charges ex-Ilocos Sur solon over PDAF scam

By Elizabeth Marcelo

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The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent constitutional body, is the lead agency mandated to investigate and prosecute public officials. File photo
MANILA, Philippines —  The Office of the Ombudsman has filed multiple criminal cases against former Ilocos Sur Rep. Salacnib Baterina and 17 others in connection with the alleged misuse of P33.9-million worth of his Priority Development Assistance Fund during his term as congressman.
 
In seven separate case information sheets filed on March 17 and released to the media Monday, the ombudsman charged Baterina before the Sandiganbayan with three counts of graft, three counts of malversation of public funds and one count of direct bribery.
 
Also charged with one count each of graft, malversation and direct bribery as Baterina's co-accused was former Energy Regulatory Commission Chairperson Zenaida Ducut.
 
Also named respondents in graft and malvesation cases were former Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and former Department of Budget and Management employees Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare.
 
Also charged with graft and malversation were former Technology Resource Center director general Antonio Ortiz, former TRC deputy director general Dennis Cunanan as well as former TRC employees Maria Rosalina Lacsamana, Marivic Jover, Francisco Figura, Maurine Dimaranan and Belina Concepcion.
 
Also charged with the same offenses were the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and four other private individuals: Godofreo Roque, Carlos Soriano, France Mercado and Evelyn De Leon.
 
Based on the information of the cases, a total of P24.3 million of Baterina's PDAF was released by DBM in 2007 to Kaagapay Magpakailanman Foundation, Inc. (KMFI) and another P9.6 million to Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI).
 
The KMFI and PSDFI were among the 20 fake foundations allegedly put up by Napoles, in which several lawmakers supposedly allocated portions of their pork barrel in exchange for millions of pesos worth of kickbacks.
 
The ombudsman said Baterina unilaterally chose KMFI and PSDFI to be the implementers of his supposed livelihood projects in his district without the benefit of a public bidding required under Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
 
Officials of the DBM and TRC allegedly approved and processed the release of the funds to the two foundations despite their lack of accreditation and qualifications to carry out the projects.
 
Further, the ombudsman said field investigation revealed that none of the projects were implemented, instead, Napoles and the other respondents supposedly submitted falsified delivery and acceptance reports, disbursement reports, project proposals, and other liquidation documents “to conceal the fictitious nature of the transactions”.
 
The ombudsman said Baterina, through Ducut, received P3 million in kickbacks from Napoles in exchange for the PDAF allocation.
 
Ex-Budget Secretary Andaya cleared
 
The anti-graft body, however, cleared former Budget secretary and now Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. of any involvement in alleged PDAF misuse despite an earlier resolution ordering the filing of graft and malversation cases against him.
 
In a resolution dated January 27, 2017, the ombudsman granted the motion for reconsideration filed by Andaya.
 
The ombudsman found merit in Andaya's claim that he issued three Special Allot Release Order (SAROs) for the release of Baterina's PDAF as the then congressman's pork allocations were already included on the PDAF Menu under the 2005 General Appropriations Act.
 
Andaya pointed out that under the DBM National Budget Circular issued on January 1, 2015, it was clarified that PDAF releases for 2005 onwards no longer require the project profiles and endorsements from the government implementing agencies (IAs) as long as the allocations are included in the GAA.
 
“Andaya's submission of the letter-circular was not refuted by the FIO (ombudsman- Field Investigation Office). Considering that the FIO's allegation as to Andaya's participation only pertains to his issuance of the SAROs without project profile and endorsement from the IAs, the finding of probable cause against him can no longer be sustained,” the ombudsman said in its new ruling.
 
Andaya was the Budget secretary when Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was president.

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