THE Ombudsman dismissed several officials of three government agencies for their alleged involvement in the anomalous use of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of former Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa amounting to P54 million.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales found the officials guilty for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
Dismissed were National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC) President Gondelina Amata, Directors Chita Jalandoni and Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Cashier IV Ofelia Ordoñez, Budget Officer Filipina Rodriguez and Chief Financial Specialist Sofia Cruz; Technology Resource Center (TRC) Director General Dennis Cunanan (former), Chief Accountant Marivic Jover, Budget Officer Consuelo Lilian Espiritu and Promotion Officer V Belina Concepcion, and; National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) Paralegal Victor Cacal and General Services Unit Head Romulo Relevo.
Dismissal is convertible to a fine equivalent to the official’s salary for one year if he or she is already separated from the service.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd ordered the abolition of the NLDC in September this year. Nabcor was abolished in 2014.
According to the Ombudsman, Dangwa’s P54 million PDAF or pork barrel allocation from 2007 to 2009 was coursed through non-government organizations (NGOs) linked to Janet Lim-Napoles with the NLDC, TRC, and Nabcor as implementing agencies.
The money was supposedly used to purchase livelihood and agricultural assistance kits for several municipalities but the Commission on Audit (COA) found that the funds were used for ghost projects.
“In implementing the projects, Amata et. al., processed, facilitated and approved the transactions and payments for the bogus projects,” the Office of the Ombudsman said.
The NGOs not only lacked the capacity to implement the projects, they also submitted fake or falsified supporting documents to back the liquidation of the money. A COA report said P11 million of the former lawmaker’s pork barrel remains unliquidated.
The Office of the Ombudsman said no bidding was undertaken.
“In spite of these deficiencies, respondent public officers Amata, Cunanan, Cacal, Relevo, Sevidal, Cruz, Jalandoni, Jover, Rodriguez, Ordoñez, Espiritu and Concepcion, with indecent haste, expedited the release of the PDAF disbursements to the NGOs affiliated with or controlled by Napoles. These foregoing acts of respondents constitute Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service,” the Ombudsman said.
The respondents cited good faith and presumption of regularity in the performance of their duties but the Ombudsman debunked their argument.
“[T]he act of certification or release of funds, approval and the affixation of signature in the disbursement vouchers, obligation slip and checks are neither mere formalities nor ministerial functions but involve the exercise of sound discretion that must be diligently performed as these are imbued with public interest,” it ruled.
Aside from dismissal, the respondents also face cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification in government service.
Dangwa, who allegedly received P26.7 million in kickbacks from the use of his PDAF, was one of five former lawmakers charged by the Ombudsman at the Sandiganbayan in February in connection with the PDAF scam.
Also charged with plunder and graft were former Rep. Edgar Valdez of the Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives and former Rep. and now Governor Rizalina Seachon-Lanete of Masbate.
Dangwa, former Rep. Rodolfo Plaza of Agusan del Sur and former Rep. Constantino Jaraula of Cagayan de Oro face separate graft, malversation and direct bribery charges.