THE Office of the Ombudsman on Tuesday filed graft and malversation charges against former Agrarian Reform secretary Nasser Pangandaman, former Budget secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and 22 others for illegally diverting more than P900 million from the Malampaya Fund to several non-government organizations controlled by Napoles.
Ombdusman Conchita Carpio-Morales, however, cleared former President Gloria Arroyo of any wrongdoing in the case.
In a resolution, Morales said the respondents own acts “showed their undue interest in the immediate release of the funds…regardless of whether there was compliance with applicable laws or rules governing such disbursements.”
“[T]he respondents’ intent and purpose show cohesion and interconnection, demonstrating the attainment of the same objective through their separate acts as each contributed in the end result of defrauding the government of the P900-million Malampaya Fund,” the Ombudsman said.
Among the government officials who face two counts of plunder, 97 counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and 97 counts of malversation through falsification of public documents are Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Narciso Nieto and Director Teresita Panlilio, and former Candaba mayor Rene Maglanque.
Also included in the suit were Jo Christine Napoles, James Christopher Napoles, Reynald Lim, Evelyn de Leon, Ronald Francisco Lim, Ronald John Lim, Eulogio Rodriguez, Simplicio Gumafelix, John Raymund de Asis, Rodrigo Galay, Alejandro Garro, Paquito Dinso Jr., Gerald Apuang, Napoleon Sibayan, Winnie Villanueva, Angelita Cacananta, and Ronald Venancio.
Former Social Secrertary Ruby Tuason, who applied for immunity from suit through the Witness Protection Program will likewise be charged for getting kickbacks amounting to P242.775 million.
The respondents were found to have acted to divert the fund releases drawn from the P900-million Malampaya Fund allocated by the DBM to the DAR in 2009. The money, however, was coursed through 97 projects under non-government organizations controlled by Napoles.
The Ombudsman said it was then Budget secretary Andaya who submitted to the Office of the President a request for authority to use the Malampaya Fund for relief operations, rehabilitation, and reconstruction of areas affected by typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng.”
DAR officials were held liable for preparing and issuing 97 checks payable to the 12 NGOs.
The NGO representatives under Napoles issued official receipts and fake liquidation documents such as reports of disbursements, delivery reports, certificates of acceptance, certificates of project completion, inspection and acceptance reports, fund utilization reports, independent auditor’s reports, reports of disbursements by external accountant and lists of beneficiaries.
The Ombudsman investigators likewise found that the documents were all fictitious as there were no deliveries of agricultural kits or packages. Signatures on a list for farmer-beneficiaries were forged.
Arroyo and then Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita were cleared in the investigation, however, as were Agrarian Reform officials Dominador Sison and Nilda Baui.
Morales said the National Bureau of Investigation had failed to prove that Arroyo and the three others conspired with the co-respondents in the illegal diversion of Malampaya Fund “or that they deviated from the regular procedure.”
“There was no nexus to the alleged commission of the crime of plunder, malversation through falsification of public documents and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” Morales said.
She also noted that Arroyo’s only participation was to issue Executive Order 848, authorizing the Department of Budget and Management to release funds from the Malampaya gas project for programs identified by Malacañang.
In 2013, Arroyo’s camp cited as basis for the EO the Marcos-era Presidential Decree 910 containing guidelines for the disbursement of the Malampaya funds.
Morales, however, has ordered the Field Investigation Office to conduct further investigation into the allegation of Ruby Tuason, one of the accused, that Jess Santos was her brother’s contact in Malacañang.
Santos was a former lawyer of ex-First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.
Santos reportedly facilitated the released of the P900-million Malampaya Fund to DAR and knew the identity of the recipient of the P242.7 million coursed through Tuason as kickbacks or commissions.
“Let’s see what will happen. If the investigation of FIO [Field Investigation Office] will point to the liability of Mrs. Arroyo, there’s nothing that will prevent the office to consider indicting her. Otherwise, the dismissal of case remains as is,” Morales said.
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