Ombudsman finds irregularities in fund transfers, silent on Aquino’s alleged links
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and his undersecretary, Mario Relampagos, are facing preliminary investigation for technical malversation and administrative charges in connnection with the allegedly irregular release of P393.7 million from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) between 2011 and 2012.
The probe came about after the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office (FIO) completed gathering facts on the use of DAP funds from 2011 to 2012.
The FIO, however, reportedly dismissed allegations against President Benigno Aquino 3rd because the accusations did not amount to an impeachable offense, a source of The Manila Times said.
Relampagos, a career DBM official, is on trial for graft with the Sandiganbayan in connection with the pork barrel scam.
The FIO investigation stemmed from two complaints filed against Abad by the Kabataan party-list and lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan.
In a statement, the Office of the Ombudsman said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has approved the FIO’s investigation report.
Morales, in a congressional hearing earlier last month, disclosed that the FIO has initiated a motu propio investigation against Abad as well as the President over the DAP issue.
The FIO report, however, was silent on the Aquino’s alleged involvement.
“Department of Budget and Management [DBM] Secretary Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad and Undersecretary Mario Relampagos are facing preliminary investigation for technical malversation and administrative charges,” the Ombudsman said.
Under the Ombudsman’s rules of procedure, an approved report from the FIO would go through a preliminary investigation to be conducted by a special panel of investigators.
Should the Ombudsman approve the special panel’s recommendation to file a case against a respondent-public official, the case can then be elevated for trial with the Sandiganbayan.
Abad, in a statement, welcomed the development, as he maintained that there was no graft and corruption involved during the DAP’s implementation.
“First, technical malversation does not suggest that the individuals in question committed acts of graft or corruption. Nor does the investigation imply that these individuals used public funds for their personal gain or benefit,” he said. “Certainly, the inquiry is not a matter of whether individuals had stolen from public coffers,” Abad added.
He said the preliminary investigation will not only enable the parties to present their views on all remaining issues involving DAP, trusting that “the Ombudsman will conduct the investigation with the soundest judgment.”
According to the FIO report, documents showed irregularities in the cross-border transfer of funds to the Commission on Audit (COA) and the House of Representatives.
Investigators found that the amount of P250 million was released to the House for construction of its legislative library and archive building/congressional e-library.
The project was “not among those approved by the President.”
The COA, meanwhile, got P143.7 million to augment its Information Technology infrastructure program and for the hiring of additional litigation experts.
The fund release was covered by a Special Allotment Release Order (Saro).
Abad prepared and signed all memoranda and issuances concerning DAP implementation while Relampagos signed the SARO covering the House and COA projects.
The SARO is a document that authorizes implementing agencies (IAs) to bid out projects. A Saro needs to be obligated by the DBM before issuing a notice of cash allocation (NCA), which in turn, authorizes the release of the fund for the projects.
According to the FIO report, Abad and Relampagos committed technical malversation as defined under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code by allowing the illegal release and anomalous use of government funds under DAP from 2011 to 2012.
The Supreme Court in July last year declared certain provisions of DAP unconstitutional.
Among those deemed illegal were the cross-border transfers of the savings of the executive department to augment appropriations of other offices outside the executive as well as the funding of projects, activities and programs that were not legislated under the General Appropriations Act.
The House belongs to the legislative department while the COA is a constitutional body.
The DAP issue broke out after Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada in a privileged speech in September 2013, revealed that he and his fellow senators received P50 million each for voting for the conviction of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.
Estrada claimed the money allegedly used to bribe them came from the DAP.
Abad had denied Estrada’s allegation.