De Lima: Ex-Cabinet execs face charges
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to file plunder charges on Thursday, October 3, against former government officials who facilitated the misuse of P900 million of the Malampaya Fund.
On Wednesday, October 2. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed her agency would file charges with the Office of the Ombudsman against former Cabinet officials and department heads who allegedly connived with Janet Lim Napoles to pocket hundreds of millions of pesos from the Malampaya Fund.
She did not identify them.
Whistleblowers have testified that Napoles, the alleged mastermind of a multi-billion pork barrel scam, received P900 million from the Malampaya Fund by forging 97 letters of request to the Department of Agrarian Reform for fake projects in 2009. This is on top of the billions of pesos she allegedly received from lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
In affidavits submitted by whistleblowers to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), they identified former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser C. Pangandaman as Napoles' contact in the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the agency that facilitated the release of Malampaya money to Napoles.
Narciso Nieto, then DAR Undersecretary for Finance, and Teresita Panlilio, then the Director III of DAR’s Finance Management are also said to have been heavily involved, according to whistleblowers.
Napoles allegedly split earnings with these officials.
While the Malampaya Fund is reserved for energy-related projects, the P900 million released to Napoles was supposed assist farmers affected by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. After a series of typhoons battered the country in 2009, then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued Executive Order 848 on Oct 13, 2009 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.
Not all plunder
De Lima said no lawmaker would be charged in this round of cases, because the Malampaya was coursed through local government units (LGUs) whose signatures were forged by Napoles' group following her instructions.
"They were 100% ghost projects," De Lima said.
She would not confirm if government officials higher than Cabinet Secretaries would also face charges.
De Lima clarified that not everyone would be charged with plunder, and that the cases filed would "depend on their participation" in the scam.
She also declined to say how many witnesses were involved in the case, but said not all 16 whistleblowers who testified in the first round of cases related to the pork barrel scam had knowledge of the Malampaya Fund irregularity.
The Malampaya-related cases were initially scheduled for filing last week, but because of other cases and commitments the whistleblowers needed to attend — such as the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings on the pork barrel scam and bail hearings for Napoles' serious illegal detention case — it has been pushed to Thursday.
The Malampaya Fund comes from proceeds of the Malampaya natural gas project that has been operating off the shores of Palawan since 2001. It has since paid the government more than $4 billion in revenues.
However, until the Supreme Court resolves the sharing scheme between the national government and the host local government, the President has full control over the way the Malampaya Fund can be spent. DAR has been one of its biggest recipients.
Also on Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III pegged the amount of Malampaya money wasted by the past administration at P23.33 billion. - Rappler.com
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