• Ex-Ecija lawmaker, 5 others charged over PDAF

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    The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft and malversation charges before the Sandiganbayan against former Nueva Ecija 3rd District Rep. Aurelio Umali and several others over the alleged anomalous use of his P15-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel allocation in 2005.

    Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the filing of the charges against Umali; Janet Lim-Napoles; then-Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Executive Director Renato Manantan and then-Accountant Narcisa Maningding.

    Anita Tansipek and Corazon Bautista of the Samahan ng mga Manininda ng Prutas sa Gabi, Inc. (Samahan) were also included as respondents in a 38-page resolution.

    Under the rules, the respondents still have the opportunity to file a motion for reconsideration on the ruling.
    Ombudsman investigators found that Umali allegedly “endorsed” the Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (MAMFI) and the the Samahan as partner non-government organizations (NGOs).

    “To be able to divert substantial funds from the PDAF and the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Program funds, access had to be made available, and this was made possible by Umali who chose MAMFI and the Samahan to implement his livelihood projects,” the Ombudsman quoted its resolution in a statement issued on Wednesday.

    “Umali likewise signed the project proposals and indorsed said NGOs to facilitate the release of the funds to them,” the resolution said.

    “[T]he funds in question could not have been transferred to said NGOs if not for their certifications, approvals, signatures found in the disbursement vouchers and checks,” Morales said.

    The DA downloaded P12 million to MAMFI and P3 million to the Samahan for the implementation of the projects.
    According to the Ombudsman, the P15-million PDAF was meant for the acquisition of irrigation pumps and fertilizers for constituents in the towns of Laur, Gabaldon, Bongabon, Santa Rosa, General Natividad and Cabanatuan City.

    The respondents allegedly made it appear that the funds were used to purchase 7,920 bottles of liquid fertilizers and 15 irrigation pumps, but the investigators found that “there was no real purchase at all since the liquid fertilizers had been sourced from another Napoles company, Nutrigrowth Philippines.”

    “Similar findings of ‘ghost projects’ were confirmed insofar as the alleged purchase of irrigation pumps,” the statement said.

    Further, the Ombudsman found that the fund usage was attended by alleged irregularities such as the absence of public bidding and the lack of delivery of irrigation pumps to the beneficiaries.

    The NGOs allegedly lacked credentials and track record to implement the multimillion-peso projects, and there was allegedly no market survey and identification of product standards for the agricultural tools.

    Undated and unnumbered disbursement vouchers were also allegedly used.

    Meanwhile, the Ombudsman also found Umali and Manantan administratively liable and ordered their dismissal from the service with perpetual disqualification from holding public office and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

    The office found them (Umali and Manantan) guilty of grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

    In case they are no longer in the government service, the penalty of dismissal is convertible to a fine equivalent to their one year salary.

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