Former Cagayan de Oro Rep. Constantino Jaraula pleaded not guilty to the charges filed against him in connection with the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.
Jaraula is facing three counts of graft, malversation and direct bribery before the Sandiganbayan’s First Division.
After the direct bribery charges were read, he said, “I vehemently plead not guilty, Your Honor.”
Janet Lim-Napoles, a respondent in the graft and malversation cases, likewise entered a plea of not guilty.
Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and employees Lalaine Paule, Marilou Bare and Rosario Nuñez also entered pleas of not guilty to graft and malversation charges.
Jaraula allegedly received kickbacks of up to P20.8 million out of his P50.5 million PDAF from 2004 to 2007, which was supposedly for financial and technical assistance through video courses and printed materials.
Based on the Commission on Audit (COA)’s special audit on the use of PDAF from 2007 to 2009, the Office of the Ombudsman said the projects were found to be “ghost” projects because they were allegedly never implemented in the lone district of Cagayan De Oro.
“They are all trumped up,” Jaraula said of the charges against him in an interview after the arraignment.
“And two years before, the COA came out with its report in 2013. I have already in writing complained to the Commission on Audit that my signatures were forged,” he added.
The former lawmaker also said that he had no transactions with Napoles.
“I never knew about CARED, it was TLRC that placed CARED there.
You can see the letter endorsement, that is not my language. You know me, that is not my language. You examine it, that is not my language. That is the language of a high school graduate,” Jaraula said.
He was referring to the implementing agency, Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC, now Technology Resource Center) while CARED is the Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation, the non-government organization which he allegedly endorsed and allegedly run by Napoles.
Earlier, the Sandiganbayan’s First Division denied Jaraula’s motion to quash, wherein he asked that his arraignment be deferred as he questioned the charges.