pork barrel scam

Ex-DBM undersecretary walks free from 11 PDAF-related charges

Ex-DBM undersecretary walks free from 11 PDAF-related charges
The Sandiganbayan says there is insufficient evidence to pin down former undersecretary Mario Relampagos for alleged conspiracy with former Masbate lawmaker Rizalina Seachon-Lanete and Janet Napoles

MANILA, Philippines – Former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) undersecretary Mario Relampagos walked free from 11 graft charges related to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam after the Sandiganbayan granted his petition.

In a 118-page resolution issued on January 26, the anti-graft court’s Fourth Division granted the demurrer to evidence filed by the former DBM official. The charges were in relation to the alleged fraud committed in the release of a P107-million PDAF budget of former Masbate lawmaker Rizalina Seachon-Lanete.

Lanete allegedly misused her PDAF allocation for which the Ombudsman filed cases against her in 2015. The former Masbate lawmaker was accused of pocketing P108.4 million from her PDAF or “pork barrel” from 2007 to 2009 when she was a member of Congress.

The ruling on Relampagos was penned by Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna, with concurrence of Associate Justices Michael Frederick L. Musngi and Bayani H. Jacinto.

The court, in siding with Relampagos on the petition, said there was insufficient evidence to pin down the former undersecretary for alleged conspiracy with Lanete and alleged PDAF mastermind Janet Napoles. The Sandiganbayan’s latest ruling has the effect of an acquittal because it said there was insufficient evidence presented by the prosecution when it tried to prove the alleged criminal offense.

“Thus, a reading of the records reveals that the prosecution failed to show proof how accused Relampagos, in conspiracy with the other accused, unduly accommodated the accused private individuals when he allegedly participated in the processing of the SAROs,” the anti-graft court said. 

In the resolution, the Sandiganbayan agreed with the defense’s position, which pointed out that Relampagos was not a signatory in the special allotment release orders (SAROs) and notices of cash allowance (NCAs). The documents were used for the release of Lanete’s alleged pork barrel.

The documents also showed that the late former budget chief Rolando Andaya Jr. was the one who signed the SAROs, while the NCAs were signed by Andaya and Carmencita Delantar. The anti-graft court said that even if Relampagos signed the documents, this cannot be considered a crime since it was part of his ministerial duty. He thus enjoys the presumption of regularity.

In addition, the court added that the only time the former DBM official was linked to the PDAF transactions was in the testimony of Benhur Luy, the prosecution’s witness. Luy earlier said their contact in the alleged release of the pork barrel were under the “office of Usec. Relampagos,” and not specifically the former DBM official himself. – Rappler.com

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