The Office of the Ombudsman has found sufficient grounds to file graft and malversation charges before the Sandiganbayan against former Misamis Occidental Rep. Marina Clarete and several others over the alleged use of her Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for projects that turned out to be non-existent.
The office on Friday said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has ordered that 18 counts of graft, 11 counts of malversation through falsification of public documents and seven counts of malversation of public funds be filed against Clarete and 26 other former government officials and non-government organizations’ (NGO) officers and staff.
Also facing indictment are former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, as well as officials and employees of implementing agencies–National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor), National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) and Technology Resource Center (TRC).
This include Nabcor president Alan Javellana; ex-Nabcor employees Rhodora Mendoza, Victor Roman Cacal, Maria Ninez Guañizo, Encarnita Christina Munsod, Julie Villaralvo-Johnson and Romulo Relevo; then-NLDC president Gondelina Amata and former employees Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Ofelia Ordoñez, Sofia Cruz, Evelyn Sucgang, Gregoria Buenaventura, Chita Jalandoni and Filipina Rodriguez; ex-TRC Director General Antonio Ortiz, ex-Deputy Director General Dennis Cunanan and former employees Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana, Francisco Figura, Consuelo Lilian Espiritu and Marivic Jover; and Marilou Antonio, Marilou Ferrer, Allen Calma, Flerida Alberto, Maria Paz Vega, Rodrigo Doria, Godofredo Roque, Ma. Neriza Gador and Pio Ronquillo.
“[B]ased on the evidence presented, the widespread misuse of the PDAF allocated to Clarete was coursed through a complex scheme basically involving projects supposedly funded by the PDAF but which turned out to be inexistent or ghost [projects],” the Ombudsman’s office said.
It added that the Department of Budget and Management issued seven Special Allotment Release Orders totaling P65 million as part of Clarete’s PDAF.
The former lawmaker allegedly identified and endorsed Nabcor, NLDC and TRC as implementing agencies with NGO partners–Kabuhayan at Kalusugang Alay sa Masa Foundation, Inc. (KKAMFI), Kasangga sa Magandang Bukas Foundation Inc. (KMBFI) and Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc. (AFPI).
According to Clarete, the P65 million was used to fund the distribution of livelihood technology kits and trainings; water pumps; hand tractors; calamansi, rambutan and mango seedlings.
But on-site validation revealed that the supposed beneficiaries denied having received any of the items, saying none of the mayors or municipal agriculturists were aware of the projects.
The Ombudsman further alleged that the respondents submitted “fabricated” liquidation documents consisting of partial and final physical reports, certificates of acceptance, auditor’s reports, financial status reports, summaries of training expenses, liquidation reports, inspections reports, purchase orders, distribution summaries, delivery receipts, official receipts, sales invoices and list of beneficiaries and participants.
In defense, Clarete claimed that her signatures on the documents were forged and that the Commission on Audit (COA) has not issued a notice of disallowance for the fund use.
But a resolution stated, “The Office of the Ombudsman has been granted virtually plenary investigatory powers and that it may, for every particular investigation, decide how best to pursue each investigation.”
“[I]t may even pursue the investigation without awaiting the decision of the COA if it determines that such decision is not indispensable to the investigation and prosecution of the case,” Morales said.