Ex-lawmakers, Arthur Yap charged over PDAF misuse
MANILA, Philippines – Three former lawmakers, along with former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, were slapped with criminal charges for the misuse of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel totaling P163.2 million.
The Office of the Ombudsman announced on Thursday, October 2, the malversation and graft complaints dated September 23 against former Congressmen Prospero Nograles, Candido Pancrudo Jr, and Thomas Dumpit Jr.
The Ombudsman Field Investigation (FIO), which conducted the fact-finding probe prior to the filing of the complaints, alleged the projects funded by the 3 ex-lawmakers' PDAF were not implemented.
State investigators found that the 3 repeatedly endorsed and allowed the allocation of their PDAF to projects of non-profit foundations. The projects turned out to be fictitious.
Named as their co-accused were various officials of state-owned corporations, where their PDAF was coursed, and officers of the NGOs that were listed as recipients of their PDAF.
The FIO charged Nograles, as then caretaker-Representative of the First District of Misamis Oriental, for over P47.5 million in illegally disbursed pork barrel from 2007 to 2009.
In a statement released to the media, Nograles said, "I am not aware of any investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman as I have not received any notice or formal communication from them. No comment. Am retired and now a private citizen and not public property!"
Nograles served as House Speaker under the presidency of now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, also facing a plunder charge. (READ: Gov't: Arroyo allowed 'patent irregularity' in PCSO plunder)
He took over the post of Misamis Oriental Representative Danilo Lagbas, who died in 2008. Included in his charge sheet for both criminal and administrative charges are Lagbas' former chief of staff Jennifer Karen Lagbas and former chief political affairs officer Danilo Jamito.
Their suspension was sought pending resolution of the administrative complaint.
In the history of Congress, Nograles is among a group of elected House Speakers who hail from Mindanao.
On the other hand, the FIO alleged that former La Union Representative Dumpit's misused PDAF amounted to P66.5 million from years 2007 to 2009.
Included in Dumpit's charge sheet are his aide Elsa Walican and former Department of Agriculture (DA) head Yap.
Aside from the graft and malversation complaint, Dumpit also faces administrative charges for grave misconduct and serious dishonesty.
Former Bukidnon Representative Pancrudo, along with his project consultant Jesus Esmeralda, was charged for P49.2 million in misused PDAF from 2007 to 2008.
The PDAF scam, the biggest corruption scandal to hit the country in recent history, was exposed in 2013. Over a hundred lawmakers have been tagged as being involved, but only 3 sets of cases have so far been filed in court.
Three divisions in the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan are currently hearing the plunder and graft cases of opposition Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr.
The investigation initiated by the Ombudsman against Nograles, Dumpit, and Pancrudo started in July 2013 after news of the multi-million-peso PDAF scam broke out.
Documents the 3 congressmen supposedly submitted to the budget department show a list of projects the FIO later on found to be bogus.
The listed projects under Nograles included what could have been 1,227 sets of livelihood technology kits to be distributed to 11 cities and towns.
Soap-making, candle-making, meat-processing, fish-processing and pastry-making video courses were likewise intended for 1,598 beneficiaries. Thousands of mango and calamansi seedlings, water pumps and hand tractors were supposedly for 11 towns and cities in Misamis Oriental.
The Ombudsman said "city and municipal agriculturalists denied having received any livelihood technology kits. They also denied any knowledge that livelihood trainings were conducted in their areas."
On the other hand, the farm implements, livelihood trainings, tools and kits supposedly funded by Dumpit's PDAF were not received by any of the 11 La Union towns he listed as beneficiaries.
The selection of NGOs that supposedly received his PDAF did not undergo public bidding or any alternative mode of procurement. Falsified receipts and invoices were likewise submitted for liquidation, the Ombudsman FIO found.
“By sponsoring the release of his PDAF to bogus NGOs, Rep. Dumpit Jr gave way to the misappropriation or misuse of his PDAF,” the complaint against Dumpit read.
Lastly, Pancrudo was found to have conspired with officers of state firm Technology Resource Center (TRC) and private foundation Farmerbusiness Development Corporation (FDC) to siphon off his PDAF.
“The documents gathered show the existence of conspiracy among officers of TRC and FDC and, other parties, and Pancrudo,” the complaint against him read.
The public officials charged with him “processed and approved the release of funds with dubious swiftness” amid "the presence of ‘red flags’ or signs of fraud," including "undated receipts" and "undated support documents," the complaint read further. – with a report from Angela Casauay/Rappler.com
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