MANILA, Philippines – The Ombudsman has filed two sets of graft charges against former North Cotabato representative now Vice Governor Gregorio Ipong in connection with the irregular disbursement of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2007.
One set of charges involved the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) and the other involved the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as implementing agencies. All in all, Ipong was found to have illegally disbursed a total of P19.4 million.
Ombudsman investigators found that in 2007, the budget department released P10 million as part of Ipong’s PDAF to fund livelihood projects in the Second District of North Cotabato.
In a press statement released Wednesday, January 4, the Office of the Ombudsman said documents showed Ipong endorsed and identified Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc (AFPI) as NGO-partner with the TLRC as implementing agency.
Investigators found that the P10 million was released in full in a single tranche “despite the AFPI’s non-submission of any project implementation and disbursement reports.”
AFPI had a dubious track record, the Ombudsman said. It was clearly unqualified to implement the livelihood project and cited the following:
- It had no business permits from 2004 to 2009
- Its listed business address is in a vacant lot used as equipment storage
- It had capital stock of only P68,000
- Its net saving and net losses in 2006-2007 amounted to P750 and P5,840, respectively
Facing charges along with Ipong are TLRC executives Antonio Ortiz, Dennis Cunanan, and Marivic Jover; and Alfredo Ronquillo of AFPI. Jover was also dismissed from the service after she was found guilty of “grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.”
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales affirmed the filing of charges against Ipong. The Cotabato official and the other 4 are facing trial before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan for one count each of violation of the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act and malversation of public funds.
The Ombudsman ordered Ipong’s dismissal from office and his perpetual disqualification from holding public office. He was also found administratively liable for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in relation to this case.
Second set of charges
In addition to this, Ipong is also facing a second set of charges for his involvement in the PDAF scam, a separate press statement from the Office of the Ombudsman said. He was found responsible for the anomalous use of his P9.4-million PDAF issued through a Special Release Allotment Order in January 2007.
In relation to this case, Morales ordered the filing of two counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, one count each of malversation and malversation trrough falsification of public funds against him and former social welfare secretary Esperanza Cabral.
Facing charges too are Social Welfare Undersecretary Mateo Montaño, Chief Accountant Leonila Hayahay and Roberto Solon of the Economic and Social Cooperation for Local Development Foundation Incorporated (Ecosoc).
The fund was supposed to target the poor and marginalized sectors in Ipong’s district through medical missions, health materials, and various medicines worth P400,000. In addition, funds amounting to P9 million or P120,000 per family were supposed to be channeled to capacity building/livelihood capital assistance for 75 marginal families in extremely difficult circumstances.
Field investigators found that Ipong gave instructions for the fund to be downloaded to the DSWD as implementing agency, through Ecosoc as NGO-partner. But a majority of supposed beneficiaries denied receiving any assistance. Funds instead were channeled to Ipong’s “ghost projects,” the Ombudsman said.
Ecosoc was also found to be financially incapable of implementing multi-million peso projects since it had a capital of only P56,000. No public bidding was also held as required under the Government Procurement Reform Act.
Ace Pharmaceuticals, a supplier of medicines, denied engaging in any business transaction with Ecosoc. Ecosoc’s board of trustees also denied any knowledge of the transactions between DSWD and Ecosoc itself.
Ecosoc told the Commission on Audit in a letter that “the persons involved must have used their NGO for their own personal and unauthorized purpose.”
The Ombudsman said “Cabral, as then DSWD Secretary, prepared, reviewed and entered into the Memorandum of Agreement governing the implementation of the projects.”
Ombudsman Morales said that “instead of using the PDAF disbursements received by them to implement the livelihood projects, respondents diverted these sums amounting to P9.4 million to their own pockets.”
In the related administrative case, Ipong and Montaño were found guilty of grave misconduct. They were ordered dismissed from the service and perpetually disqualified from holding public office with forfeiture of all retirement benefits.
In both cases, Ipong tried to defend himself. In the P10-million PDAF case, Ipong said he did not have custody and control over his PDAF allocations. He also said “the amount was coursed through AFPI based on the national 10-point agenda of the government at that time” and that “he was a mere endorser of the livelihood project.” – Rappler.com