• Ex-Iloilo lawmaker, 5 others face P4.8-M PDAF case

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    The Office of the Ombudsman has found basis to file before the Sandiganbayan charges of graft and malversation through falsification of public documents against former Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. and five others over the allegedly anomalous use of his P4.8-million 2008 Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel allocation.

    Also facing indictment are Alan Javellana, Rhodora Mendoza, Romulo Relevo and Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, who were formerly from the National Agri-Business Corporation (Nabcor), as well as Marilou Antonio, then-project coordinator of the Kabuhayan at Kalusugang Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc. (KKAMFI).

    “I’m very surprised by the resolution of the Ombudsman in that case because from the very beginning I took positive steps to alert the CoA [Commission on Audit] and the government agencies concerned when I received information that spurious documents allegedly containing my signature were being used to facilitate the release of government funds,” Tupas said in a text message on Thursday when sought for comment.

    “I was even the one who called the attention of CoA about this matter and I asked the government agency concerned to withhold the release of funds. In fact, some of the funds were returned to the national treasury because of my letter complaint. I also wrote the Ombudsman informing the office of our discovery of spurious documents that were used to facilitate the release of funds,” he added.

    Tupas said he has not yet received a copy of the resolution and will ask his lawyers to file a motion for reconsideration, adding, “I hope the Ombudsman will see the light.”

    A statement issued by the Ombudsman also on Thursday said Tupas requested the Department of Agriculture (DA) in a letter dated May 15, 2008 the transfer of P5 million to Nabcor for the implementation of PDAF-funded projects. He also allegedly recommended KKAMFI as the partner non-government organization (NGO).

    The funds were meant to be used to buy hand tractors, water pumps and grafted fruit seedlings but, the Ombudsman said, mayors from the towns of Ajuy, Batad, Estancia, Lemery, San Rafael and Sara denied receiving any of the farm implements.

    It also found that the liquidation documents were allegedly fabricated.

    The Ombudsman alleged in its resolution that “Tupas, Jr. himself issued the requisite endorsement letters and similar documentation addressed to the DA and Nabcor, acts which were necessary to ensure that the chosen NGO would be awarded the project.”

    The office quoted Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales as saying, “This Office is convinced that they conspired with one another in this nefarious scheme to misappropriate public funds drawn from Tupas Jr.’s PDAF.”

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