Former Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino is facing two counts of malversation and graft charges for allegedly siphoning off of P15 million in Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAFs).
The charges resulted from Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approving the filing of criminal charges against Antonino as well as former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap; Alan Javellana, Rhodora Mendoza, Encarnita Cristina Munsod and Maria Ninez Guañizo of the National Agri-Business Corp. (Nabcor); Marilou Antonio of Buhay Mo Mahal Ko Foundation Inc. (BMMKFI); and Carmelita Barredo of C.C. Barredo Publishing House.
The Ombudsman cited a January 2007 letter where Antonino requested and directly endorsed Nabcor and BMMKFI to the DA as implementors of his livelihood training kits (LTK) project.
The BMMKFI, through Antonino, then exclusively procured 7,275 sets of LTKs worth P2,000 each or P14.55 million in total from C.C Barredo on March 22, 2007.
The supplier supposedly delivered the P14.55-million worth of LTKs on March 23, 2007 and were accepted and acknowledged by Antonino–all of which were later to be found ghost projects since several local officials of Nueva Ecija denied ever receiving any of the LTKs.
The LTKs also did not have supporting documents namely: project proposal, physical and audited financial reports, monitoring reports, or any due diligence report on the supplier and selection process of the non-government organization (NGO) that will implement the project.
Also, there was no public bidding for the project.
“The evidence established that respondent public officers conspired with private respondents in this disreputable scheme to defraud government coffers by preparing fictitious reports and other liquidation documents that would make it appear that the PDAF-funded project was implemented,” the Ombudsman’s office said.
“In a congressional pork barrel system, including the PDAF, it is the legislator who exercises actual control and custody of the PDAF share allocated to him,” it added.
The PDAF used to be the discretionary fund of the lawmakers that they can spend for the needs of their constituents namely medical and educational assistance, as well as roads, bridges and classrooms.
Each member of the House of Representatives used to have a guaranteed P70 million worth of PDAF every year.
A Supreme Court ruling in November 2013, however, deemed it illegal on the ground that it is not the lawmakers’ responsibility to implement government projects.
The ruling came after the expose on the P10-billion PDAF scam wherein lawmakers allegedly siphoned off their PDAF or pork barrel for their personal gain by putting them in bogus NGOs run by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
The High Court ruled that by choosing the beneficiaries of their PDAF after the enactment of the national budget into law, the lawmakers are implementing government projects, which is the job of the executive department.