Tuason and several other individuals pleaded not guilty to a graft charge and to a charge of malversation through falsification that they are facing before the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division along with other individuals in connection with Malampaya funds in 2009 to 2010.
Those who entered a plea of not guilty during the arraignment on Friday were Tuason, former Candaba (Pampanga) Mayor Rene Maglanque, Evelyn de Leon, Eulogio Rodriguez, Simplicio Gumafelix and Gerald Apuang.
Meanwhile, Alejandro Garro, Paquito Dinso Jr. and Napoleon Sibayan refused to enter any plea, thus the court entered a plea of not guilty on their behalf.
The court reset to April the arraignment of several other accused including former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary and now Camarines Sur First District Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., who has a pending motion for bills of particulars.
“Sure. This gives us an opportunity to show [that]not everyone was involved in it… As regards my point, from my standpoint… I’m in a good situation and I’m in a position now when minds are calm… I was ordered to release and that’s it… To be accused of what happened downstairs, which my department [then]and the people in my department [then]have no dealings whatsoever, it’s beyond their control. [Perhaps], we should be able to explain that at this point…,” Andaya said in an interview when asked on a remark made on Thursday by President Rodrigo Duterte.
On that day, in Iloilo, the President said in a speech that “[s]omebody has to account for the loss of [the Malampaya funds].”
The Commission on Audit’s (CoA) Special Audits Office earlier recommended that an investigation be immediately conducted to determine those who may be responsible for the allegedly “questionable” releases of the Malampaya funds.
It made the recommendation in a sectoral performance audit report on the Malampaya fund releases by the Budget department to various implementing agencies from 2004 to 2012.
Deferred also on Friday was the arraignment of Jo Christine Napoles and James Christopher Napoles, who have a pending motion seeking the nullification of charge sheets, and that of their mother Janet Lim-Napoles.
Earlier, the Office of the Ombudsman filed cases before the Sandiganbayan against 25 individuals.
These were: Andaya, former DBM Undersecretary Mario Relampagos; former Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary and now Masiu, Lanao del Sur Mayor Nasser Pangandaman, former Undersecretary Narciso Nieto, former Director Teresita Panlilio, then-Chief Accountant Angelita Cacananta and then-Chief Administrative Officer/then-Budget Officer V Ronald Venancio; former Candaba mayor Maglanque; Janet Lim-Napoles and her brother Ronald Francisco Lim; Jo Christine Napoles; James Christopher Napoles; Reynald Lim; Tuason; de Leon; Ronald John Lim a.k.a. John Lim, Rodriguez, Gumafelix, John Raymund de Asis, Rodrigo Galay, Garro, Dinso, Apuang, Sibayan and Winnie/Ma. Winnie Villanueva.
Cacananta and Ronald Francisco Lim have also filed motions asking the court to nullify the charge sheets.
In filing the cases last year, the Ombudsman alleged that Andaya, Relampagos, Pangandaman, Nieto, Panlilio, Cacananta and Venancio, “conspiring with one another and with” Janet Lim-Napoles, Jo Christine Napoles, James Christopher Napoles, Reynald Lim, Tuason, de Leon, Ronald Francisco Lim, Ronald John Lim a.k.a. John Lim, Rodriguez, Gumafelix, de Asis, Galay, Garro, Dinso, Apuang and Sibayan, “together with” Maglanque [then a private individual]and Villanueva, “cause[d]undue injury to the government and/or g[a]ve unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference to” non-government organizations [NGOs] in the total amount of P900 million.
The NGOs and amounts involved were the: Micro Agri Business Citizens Initiative Foundation Inc. (P55 million); Tanglaw Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (P72.5 million); Abundant Harvest for People’s Foundation Inc. (P75 million); Bukirin Tanglaw Foundation Inc. (P75 million); Dalangpan Sang Amon Utod Kag Kasimanwa Foundation Inc. (P75 million); Kasaganahan Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (P75 million); Kaupdan Para Sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (P75 million); Masaganang Buhay Foundation Inc. (P75 million); Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation, Inc. (P77.5 million); Saganang Buhay sa Atin Foundation Inc. (P80 million); Gintong Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc. (P82.5 million); and Karangayan Para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc. (P82.5 million).
Last year, the Ombudsman found basis to file cases of plunder, graft and malversation through falsification of public documents against the 25 individuals but later reconsidered its finding of basis to charge them with plunder.
According to the Ombudsman, they were “found to have” supposedly “acted in concert” allegedly “to divert the fund releases drawn from the P900 million Malampaya funds allocated by the DBM to the DAR in 2009, which was” allegedly “malversed and coursed through the NGOs” supposedly “controlled by Napoles…”