NORTH Cotabato Vice Gov. Gregorio Ipong asked the Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division to dismiss the graft and malversation cases filed against him and four others over the alleged misappropriation of P4.9-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2007 when he was the congressional representative of the province’s second district.
The Office of the Ombudsman, in filing the case, alleged that Ipong chose the “unaccredited and unqualified” non-government organization (NGO) Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc. (AFPI) as project partner in implementing PDAF-funded livelihood projects which turned out to be non-existent.
His counsel claimed Ipong was not responsible for AFPI’s accreditation.
According to the defense, a perusal of the charge sheet which accused him of graft “shows mere conclusions of law, without any clear averment of the facts showing how accused Ipong acted with evident bad faith, manifest partiality or gross inexcusable negligence. His act of endorsing was part of his duties as legislator and only recommendatory.”
His task, it said, was merely to earmark and/or allocate part of his PDAF and to recommend an NGO to the implementing government agencies. The Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) “was clearly not duty-bound to accept his selection/endorsement.”
Ipong had “at most recommendatory powers as to which NGO or otherwise, will actually implement his priority project and it will thereafter be at TLRC’s exclusive control and supervision of the project’s implementation and to its complete conclusion, and everything in between that,” the defense pointed out.
It added that the appropriation law or ordinance requirement under Government Procurement Policy Board Resolution No. 12-2007 dated June 29, 2007 “was not yet in existence at the time the AFPI was selected and the funds transferred.”
Further, the defense argued that the alleged conspiracy was not clearly established.
Also, the counsel pointed out that the Ombudsman charged Ipong 10 years after the offense charged was allegedly committed in 2007.
Named respondents along with Ipong were former TLRC Director General Antonio Ortiz, former TLRC Deputy Director General Dennis Cunanan, former TLRC Chief Accountant Marivic Jover and Alfredo Ronquillo, then-president of AFPI.