pork barrel scam

COA clears congressman Rufus Rodriguez in pork barrel scam


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COA clears congressman Rufus Rodriguez in pork barrel scam

BUDGET BRIEFING. Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez attends the briefing on the Department of Health's 2023 budget at the House of Representatives on September 12, 2022.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

State auditors clear the Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District representative as the NBI finds that his signature was forged on pork barrel-related documents

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) cleared Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez of liability in the illegal release of P2 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel in 2008.

COA made the decision following the forensic examination of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that found Rodriguez’s signature was forged on pork barrel-related documents.

The NBI said, after comparing the signatures on the questioned documents with Rodriguez’s real signature, that they “were not written by one and the same person.”

“While the findings in the NBI report are merely recommendatory in nature, it stands as evidence nonetheless. In the absence of any other evidence to the contrary…the NBI report is entitled to the presumption of regularity and cannot just be dismissed,” COA said in its ruling, released in the last week of November.

Rodriguez has long denied involvement in the corruption scandal which saw businesswoman Janet Napoles allegedly pocket billions through PDAF transfers sent to her nongovernment organization (NGO), Philippine Social Development Foundation Incorporated (PSDFI).

The congressman sought the NBI’s help after COA included him in its list of persons held liable for PDAF transfers to PSDFI. The 2013 special audit had names of various lawmakers from the Senate and the House from 2007 to 2009, totaling P79.878 billion in transfers.

COA found that P2 million from Rodriguez’s PDAF was released by the Department of Budget and Management to the Technology Resource Center (TRC) on February 1, 2008.

Of the P2 million, P1.8 million went to PSDFI, while TRC withheld P200,000 to cover a 5% service fee and other expenses for “technical assistance and learning materials.”

State auditors flagged how PSDFI, an NGO with a listed address in AFP Village in Taguig City, was chosen to implement a project for Rodriguez’s district in Cagayan de Oro City.

In 2015, Rodriguez sued the NBI and the Department of Justice for including him in the NBI’s executive summary of complaints in connection with the PDAF scam. He claimed that the signatures on the documents were forgeries, and that he did not know Napoles.

The Supreme Court junked his petition in July 2021, saying that there was “no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the NBI in conducting an investigation on the person of the petitioner as to his participation in the Napoles PDAF scam.”

Among the documents in question were a certificate of completion, letter of liquidation, accomplishment report, delivery report, and memorandum of agreement.

Rodriguez claimed that because his signatures were forged, he had no knowledge of the transactions and did not participate in them.

COA said the lack of evidence to justify Rodriguez’s inclusion in the notice of disallowance entitles him to be cleared. – Rappler.com

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