Arroyo spared, ex-Cabinet men charged in Malampaya scam

Rappler.com
(UPDATED) Former budget secretary Rolando Andaya Jr, ex-agrarian reform chief Nasser Pangandaman and 23 others face plunder and graft charges

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Ombudsman on Tuesday, December 27, recommended the filing of plunder and graft charges against former budget secretary Rolando Andaya, ex-agrarian reform secretary Nasser Pangandaman, and 23 others over the P900-million Malampaya fund scam.

But it spared former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, her then executive secretary Eduardo Ermita, and two others for “insufficiency of evidence” to prove they conspired with the rest for the illegal diversion of the fund or that “they deviated from the regular procedure.”

The Malampaya fund consists of royalties collected by the government from the Malampaya deep water gas-to-power project since 2001. It is supposed to fund energy development projects, but has since been utilized by Arroyo and then President Benigno Aquino III for non-energy-related initiatives.

The scam involves allocations for the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) under the Arroyo government, a huge part of which was siphoned off by non-governmental organizations run by Janet Lim Napoles, tagged as the mastermind of the pork barrel scandal that involved lawmakers’ discretionary funds. (READ: How the Malampaya fund was plundered)

The scandal broke out in 2013, leading to the arrest of Napoles and others linked to her, including senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla.

Facing 2 counts of plunder and multiple charges of graft and malversation through falsification are the following, according to the Ombudsman’s statement on Tuesday:

  1. former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) secretary Rolando Andaya Jr
  2. former DBM undersecretary Mario Relampagos
  3. former Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) secretary Nasser Pangandaman
  4. former DAR undersecretary Narciso Nieto
  5. former DAR director Teresita Panlilio
  6. former Candaba Mayor Rene Maglanque
  7. Ruby Tuason
  8. Janet Lim Napoles
  9. Jo Christine Napoles
  10. James Christopher Napoles
  11. Reynald Lim
  12. Evelyn De Leon
  13. Ronald Francisco Lim
  14. Ronald John Lim
  15. Eulogio Rodriguez
  16. Simplicio Gumafelix
  17. John Raymund De Asis
  18. Rodrigo Galay
  19. Alejandro Garro
  20. Paquito Dinso Jr
  21. Gerald Apuang
  22. Napoleon Sibayan
  23. Winnie Villanueva
  24. Angelita Cacananta
  25. Ronald Venancio

The charges will be filed before the Sandiganbayan, the country’s anti-graft court.

No evidence to pin down Arroyo

In a statement, the Ombudsman said the respondents were found to have “acted in concert to divert the fund releases drawn from the P900 million Malampaya fund allocated by the DBM to the DAR in 2009, which was malversed and coursed through the NGOs controlled by Napoles and for which huge kickbacks and commissions were paid.”

The charges against former president Arroyo, Ermita, Dominador Sison Jr. and Nilda Baui, both from DAR, “were dismissed due to insufficiency of evidence.”

“The Joint Resolution explained that complainants failed to prove that they conspired with their co-respondents in the illegal diversion of the P900 million Malampaya fund or that they deviated from the regular procedure,” according to the statement. 

According to the Ombudsman, it was Andaya who, on October 8, 2009, submitted to the Office of the President a request for authority to use the Malampaya fund for relief operations and rehabilitation in the aftermath of typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng.”

Five days later, Arroyo issued Executive Order 848 authorizing Andaya to release the funds to DAR as the implementing agency.

On October 22, 2009, then DAR underscretary Nieto asked Abaya for the release of the P900 million based on 97 “purported letter-requests made by the mayors of various local government units.”

But the money was downloaded to NGOs controlled by Napoles, the Ombudsman said. Napoles’ relatives (the Lims and the Napoleses on this list) facilitated the scam through faking the signatures of local government officials and falsifying documents of supposed beneficiaries, the Ombudsman added. (READ: COA finds collusion in Malampaya Fund plunder)

Why P900 million?

A Rappler investigation in 2013 showed that after a series of typhoons battered the country, Mrs Arroyo issued EO 848 to expand the use of the Special Account (Fund 151) in the General Fund of the Department of Energy. This essentially allowed them to tap the Malampaya Fund for rehabilitation and reconstruction purposes.

Andaya told Rappler then that a series of Cabinet meetings were held to discuss the implementation of EO 848. In one of those meetings, Pangandaman had actually requested for more than P1 billion supposedly to help assist farmers who were affected by the natural calamities, Andaya added.

The DAR estimated that the agricultural damage wrought by the successive typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng had reached P10 billion.

But Andaya rejected the original amount sought by Pangandaman because other agencies were also requesting for money to be sourced from the Malampaya Fund. “We have to divide the money to the different departments according to need,” Andaya said then.

In the end, it was agreed in the Cabinet meeting that DAR would get P900 million, Andaya said then. – Rappler.com

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