SEN. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) Director General Joel Villanueva are now officially among the respondents in the third batch of incumbent and former lawmakers who will be charged in connection with the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.
Pork barrel scam witnesses Benhur Luy and Merlina Sunas implicated the two officials, along with several former and incumbent lawmakers, in their signed affidavits that are now being evaluated by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“Luy and Sunas have already signed and submitted their affidavits and the DOJ is now evaluating [them]to determine whether… the charges can stand in court,” Luy’s lawyer, Raji Mendoza, told The Manila Times on Sunday.
Once probable cause is established, the DOJ will file the case at the Office of the Ombudsman, the same way it did in filing the first two batches of pork barrel cases.
The respondents face charges of malversation of public funds, not plunder, because the amount involved is less than P50 million.
Honasan allegedly allocated P15 million of his PDAF to the bogus non-government organization (NGO) Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. that was put up by Janet Lim-Napoles.
On the other hand, Villanueva, former Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list representative, allegedly allocated P4.3 million of his pork barrel to the Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc., also an NGO controlled by Napoles.
The affidavits of the witnesses are backed by transaction records and audit reports of the Commission on Audit from 2007 to 2009.
Villanueva is the second ally of President Benigno Aquino 3rd who was directly implicated in the PDAF misuse. The first was former Customs chief Rufino Rozzano Biazon, who was included in the second batch of charges filed by the DOJ. Charged along with Biazon were seven congressmen; Alan Javellana, former president of the National Agribusiness Corp.; Antonio Ortiz, former director general of the Technology Resource Center; and Dennis Cunanan, former TRC deputy director general.
Honasan and Villanueva belied the accusations.
Honasan maintained that he was not the one who chose where his PDAF was to be allocated from 2007 to 2009 while the Tesda chief expressed readiness to face the charges. Villanueva said he was confident that he would be cleared.
Earlier reports identified the other co-accused in the third batch as incumbent Abono party-list Rep. Conrado Estrella 3rd, former Abono party-list Rep. Robert Raymundo Estrella, incumbent La Union Gov. and former La Union Rep. Manuel Ortega, former Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Isidro Real Jr., incumbent Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, incumbent Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairman Zenaida Ducut, former representative of Pampanga province.
Conducting the review and evaluation of the affidavits of Luy, Sunas and other witnesses are Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano, National Bureau of Investigation Director Virgilio Mendez and NBI Special Task Force chief Rolando Argabioso.
In the first batch of PDAF complaints, plunder and graft charges were filed against senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, among several others.