Plunder raps: Napoles, 3 senators, 2 former reps
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed plunder charges Monday against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada, two former congressmen and businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, who is accused of channeling their pork barrel into ghost projects and splitting the loot with the lawmakers.
The two former congressmen were identified as Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete of Masbate and former party-list representative Edgar Valdez.
All three senators have denied wrongdoing.
Three other former congressmen, Rodolfo Plaza of Agusan del Sur; Samuel Dangwa of Benguet; and Constantino Jaraula of Cagayan de Oro were also indicted for malversation, direct bribery, and graft.
The NBI complaint said Enrile, Revilla, Estrada, Seachon-Lanete and Valdez committed plunder in conspiracy with Napoles and officials of the implementing agencies when they each accumulated more than P50 million through a series of transactions over time that channeled their pork barrel – officially known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund – to ghost projects in exchange for kickbacks or commissions.
The complaint said Revilla received P224.51 million in kickbacks; Estrada, P183.79 million; Enrile, P172 million; Seachon-Lanete, P108.4 million; and Valdez, P56.09 million.
The complaint also said Plaza pocketed P42.14 million; Dangwa, P26.77 million; and Jaraula, P20.84 million.
Eight Senate and congressional staff were also charged, including Enrile’s chief of staff Gigi Reyes; Richard Cambe; Ruby Tuason; Pauline Labayen,; Jose Sumalpong; Jeanette de la Cruz; Erwin Dangwa; and Carlos Lozada.
The five officials who headed the implementing state-owned corporations involved in the ghost projects were also charged. These were Alan Javella, former president of National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor); Gondelina Amata, president of National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC); Antonio Ortiz, former director general of the Training and Research Center (TRC); Dennis Cunanan, director general of TRC; and Salvador Salacup, assistant secretary of the Agriculture Department and former president of Zamboanga del Norte Agricultural College Rubber Estate Corp.
Ten employees of these government corporations were also indicted: Victor Cacal, Romulo Revelo, Ma. Ninez Guanizo, Julie Johnson, and Rodhora Mendoza of Nabcor; Alexis Sevidal, Sofia Cruz, and Chila Jalandoni of NLDC; and Francisco Figura and Marivic Jover of TRC.
The six presidents of foundations allegedly created by Napoles – Jocelyn Piorato, Nemesio Pablo, Mylene Encarnacion, John Raymund de Asis, Evelyn de Leon, and Ronald John Lim – were also indicted.
The complaint stated that said lawmakers received kickback “amounting to 40 to 60 percent of the cash value of the project cost for every project endorsed by a lawmaker to a Napoles non-governmental organization.”
The case was filed before the Office of the Ombudsman.
In a press conference, De Lima said the case will be evaluated by a “big team” of Ombudsman reviewers and prosecutors before the preliminary investigation. She added that a “lookout order” will be released by Justice Department to ensure the whereabouts of those charged.
In all, 38 people were charged in what the first batch of cases resulting from the Napoles investigation.
She said a second batch of Napoles-related charges and a case related to the misuse of the Malampaya Gas Fund would likely be filed next week.
“We are still tracing the projects with the help of the Commission on Audit. There are still gaps because we need to match the documentary evidence with the testimony of the 16 whistleblowers,” De Lima said.
She also called on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to “use her coercive powers to compel agencies involved in the scam to produce necessary documents for evidence.”
Morales said that her office would evaluate the complaint and the accompanying case records to determine whether they would proceed to a preliminary investigation or if they need to build a stronger case, in which case the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Council would be asked to help.
She said the period of evaluation would depend on the complexity of the case.
The Palace welcomed the filing of charges Monday.
“The filing of charges continues a process prescribed by the Constitution and is proof that our democratic system and our legal processes are working,” said Presidential Communications Development Secretary Ramon Carandang.
“All the accused will be given their day in court under a fair and impartial trial,” he added.
Carandang also called on the public to closely monitor the cases.
“We urge the public to diligently and soberly follow this process that will be pursued to its legal conclusion,” he said.
Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Anthony Parungao, meanwhile, said his department would cooperate with the NBI to establish a paper trail of some P900 million from the Malampaya Gas Fund that was allegedly distributed to 12 bogus NGOs linked to Napoles.
The ghost projects were supposed to benefit agrarian reform communities ravaged by tropical storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng in 2009.
“At least 97 certified scanned copies of checks from the Malampaya funds have already been submitted to the NBI,” he told the Manila Standard.
The Justice Department earlier told the department to submit original checks as part of the evidence against Napoles, but it was unable to do so.
“The real checks were not with us at the department, but with the Commission on Audit,” Parungao said.
“Because of the bank secrecy law, prosecutors might have a hard time securing bank documents. That’s why we requested the Land Bank of the Philippines to provide us with the scanned checks.”
The P900-million fund, part of the President’s discretionary funds, was covered by a tripartite agreement among 97 local government units, the Agrarian Reform Department and the NGOs.
The 97 checks in the amount of P7 million to P10 million went to 12 NGOs for 97 towns, mostly in Region I and the Cordillera Autonomous Region, on a staggered basis.
De Lima said Napoles was able to obtain P900 million from the Malampaya natural gas project fund with help from an assistant secretary at the Agrarian Reform Department.
In Monday’s press conference, De Lima said they were preparing the documents needed to charge Napoles and other people involved in the diversion of the Malampaya funds next week.
In November 2012, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes had ordered their own investigation after Commission on Audit pointed to irregular disbursements of the Malampaya funds.
The Malampaya consortium remitted $1.1 billion worth of revenues in February 2013 representing government’s share in the Malampaya revenues as of 2012. With Joyce Pangco Pańares and Rio N. Araja and Rio N. Araja