The Office of the Ombudsman has found basis to file graft charges before the Sandiganbayan against former Maguindanao Second District Rep. Simeon Datumanong and several others in connection with a P3.8-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the office said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio- Morales has ordered the filing of two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against the former lawmaker.
Also ordered charged were then-officials of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF)–former Commissioner Mehol Sadain, Fedelina Aldanese, Aurora Aragon-Mabang, Olga Galido, Queenie Rodriguez, Galay Makalinggan and Gracita Cecilia Mascenon-Sales of the non-government organization (NGO) Maharlikang Lipi Foundation Inc. (MLFI).
The Ombudsman ruled that there was “extraordinary accommodation extended to MLFI in the examination, processing and approval by the concerned NCMF officers of the PDAF releases as shown by the unnumbered and undated disbursement vouchers; and issuance of check prior to execution of the Memorandum of Agreement.”
The office found upon investigation that the Department of Budget and Management issued a Special Allotment Release Order in 2012 covering P3.8 million charged against Datumanong’s PDAF in favor of NCMF as implementing agency.
Datumanong allegedly “requested” that the sum–which was meant to fund livelihood programs such as soap making, candle making and meat processing for the towns of Mamasapano, Ampatuan and Datu Abdullah Sanki–be coursed through the MLFI as NGO-partner.
The Commission on Audit later found upon audit that the NGO was allegedly selected without calling for a public bidding, in violation of COA Circular No. 2007-01.
In defense, Datumanong said “the Ombudsman should await the final determination of the COA on whether the funds were mismanaged.”
He claimed that his signatures on the documents were forged.
But in the December 8 resolution, Morales held that “the Office of the Ombudsman has been granted virtually plenary investigatory powers by the Constitution and by law and it may, for every particular investigation, decide how best to pursue each investigation.”
“[T]he findings of the COA report, or the finality or lack of finality of such report, are irrelevant to the investigation to determine the existence of probable cause,” she said.
The Ombudsman added, “The truth is, Datumanong was aware that, under the pork barrel system, legislators exercised post-enactment authority and they were considered to have custody and control of the PDAF-funded projects.”
Citing Supreme Court jurisprudence, Morales said “under the congressional pork barrel system, it is the legislator that exercises actual control and custody of the PDAF share allocated to him by appropriations statute.”