BUDGET Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad on Tuesday dismissed the motion filed by a lawyer to include him as respondent in the pork barrel case as “empty” and called his detractors “cowards” for hiding behind a weak case meant only to discredit him.
“I suspect he’s just fronting for certain people who are too cowardly to come out in the open,” Abad said in reaction to lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan’s filing on Monday of a petition asking the Sandiganbayan to order prosecutors as well as the Office of the Ombudsman to amend the charge sheet and implead Abad as principal accused.
Alentajan is the counsel of former Technology Resource Center director-general Antonio Ortiz, one of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s co-accused in the P10 billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam. Ortiz remains at large.
The Budget chief told The Manila Times that he never knew Alentajan personally and that the real motive for the filing of the motion was far from dragging him into the case but for a more “sinister” reason.
“I don’t know him and I have never dealt with him. His 10-page pleading has no substance at all. Clearly, it’s not the case he’s after but, obviously, just media attention,” Abad stressed.
The Budget chief said the motion has no merit at all.
“Atty. Alentajan should go back to law school. In criminal cases, you just don’t file a Motion to Implead, you file a Complaint before the Ombudsman first,” Abad said.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Alentajan was barking up the wrong tree, noting that Abad should not be dragged into the PDAF mess because the latter was not yet the Budget chief when the funds were released.
“How can anyone reasonably accuse Sec. Abad when he assumed office at DBM (Department of Budget and Management) two years after (the) alleged misuse of funds occurred?” Coloma told the Times.
In his regular press briefing earlier on Tuesday, Coloma noted that the arguments raised by Alentajan were “simply” wrong.
Both Abad and Coloma argued that the subject of the Commission on Audit (COA) special audit covered the years 2007 and 2008, two years before the 2010 elections that was won by President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
In his motion, Alentajan said “Abad, an alter ego of President Benigno C. Aquino 3rd, is the most guilty among perpetrators of the case plunder, graft and corrupt practices.”
The lawyer said based on a letter that the Department of Justice (DOJ) submitted before the Office of the Ombudsman in September 2013, it was established that the DBM has a considerable role in the alleged scam and that Abad, as the head of agency, must be held accountable.
“The direct participation and indispensable cooperation of issuing the SARO [Special Allotment Release Order] and Notice of Cash Allocation by DBM Secretary Abad, are the proximate causes and determining factors of the said criminal offenses,” Alentajan said.
There is no telling how the San¬¬¬di¬gan¬bayan will rule on Alen¬tajan’s motion.
A court official told The Times that Alentajan was correct in saying that when a case is already given cognizance by the court, all complaints and issues must be filed with the court and not with the prosecutor anymore.
However, he said one cannot preempt how the anti-graft court will rule on the motion because the tribunal can either give due course to the motion if it finds merit or it can dismiss the motion outright without giving due course on the ground that Abad was not included in the case and a complaint must first be filed at the Office of the Ombudsman.
The motion will be heard on August 27.
WITH REINA LEANNE TOLENTINO