Ex-La Union congressman acquitted in P14.55M pork scam case
MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan acquitted former La Union 2nd District Representative Thomas Dumpit Jr of 4 counts of corruption over a P14.55 million pork barrel scam case from 2008.
The Sandiganbayan Third Division acquitted Dumpit and two officers of the now-abolished implementing agency National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) – Rhodora Mendoza and Romulo Relevo – of 2 counts of graft, 1 count of malversation and 1 count of malversation thru falsification.
The anti-graft court said Dumpit's mere endorsements of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to Nabcor were not enough basis for conviction. Neither were his certifications of the projects that turned out to be ghost projects.
The Office of the Ombudsman decried that this decision would allow other lawmakers to escape accountability.
"From the foregoing discussion, it is clear that prosecution failed to muster the required quantum of evidence...Considering that the prosecution has not proven any act or omission on the part of accused Dumpit, Relevo and Mendoza from which civil liability might arise, no such form of damages may be imposed against them," said the decision promulgated on November 8.
The decision was penned by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg, with concurrences from Associate Justices Efren Dela Cruz and Edgardo Caldona.
No overt act
The Ombudsman prosecution presented as evidence Dumpit's endorsement of Nabcor as the implementing agency – or the middle agency – for his pork barrel in 2008.
These endorsement letters were sent to then House Speaker Prospero Nograles and then Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap.
Yap, now Bohol governor, was ordered suspended for 90 days last September because of his own corruption case related to the pork barrel scam, also in his capacity as the former agriculture chief during the Arroyo presidency.
The pork barrel was eventually used for projects spearheaded by the non-government organization (NGO) Kasangga sa Magandang Bukas Foundation Inc or KMBFI controlled by Marilou Antonio.
"There is nothing contained in the letters that pertained to (Dumpit's) unilateral choice of KMBFI as implementing NGO," said the decision.
The decision added: "Contrary to other PDAF cases, where the accused therein executed written endorsements identifying the NGOs to which the PDAF funds will be released to, there was no positive and conclusive evidence presented in the case at bar that accused Dumpit unilaterally chose KMBFI."
The letters to Nograles and Yap paved the way for the signing of a memorandum of agreement between Nabcor and KMBFI. But Dumpit did not sign it.
"To agree with accused Dumpit's argument that he should not be liable just because he did not sign the memoranda will pave the way for legislators to evade accountability by simply opting not to sign contracts involving their PDAF," said the Office of the Ombudsman.
Dumpit was acquitted on a demurrer to evidence.
No falsification either
The prosecution alleged that Nabcor officials Relevo and Mendoza signed disbursement vouchers "despite knowing that the supporting liquidation documents were falsified."
But the court agreed with Relevo and Mendoza that they – and even Dumpit – cannot be convicted of falsification of documents if they did not have direct participation or knowledge to the act.
"The liquidation documents alleged to be false were not prepared by them, nor were they duty bound to verify the genuineness of each and every document," said the decision.
The prosecution was able to present certifications by Dumpit on a document that showed the distribution list of water pumps, hand tractors and grafted seedlings.
The prosecution said this was proof that Dumpit certified the complete deliveries of the projects when in fact, no deliveries happened at all.
"However, a cursory review of these documents would belie the prosecution's claim. There were no dates evidencing delivery or acceptance by the municipalities listed therein. These documents may very well be a proposed distribution list of the agricultural implements," said the Court.
Bail bonds have been ordered released for the officials, and Hold Departure Orders (HDOs) against them are recalled. – Rappler.com