Janet Lim-Napoles and four others pleaded not guilty to the graft and malversation charges filed against former Davao del Sur representative Douglas Cagas and several other individuals in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.
Cagas is now the governor of the province.
Napoles, former Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, former Department of Budget employees Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule, and Marilou Bare were arraigned before the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division on Friday:
The court reset Cagas’s arraignment to November 10 because of a pending omnibus motion and manifestation which he filed on October 3.
The Office of the Ombudsman claimed that Cagas “unilaterally chose and indorsed” two supposedly “unaccredited and unqualified” non-government organizations (NGOs) as “project partner” in implementing a PDAF-funded livelihood project for towns in Davao del Sur’s first district. These projects allegedly turned out to be non-existent.
The others who were charged were former Energy Regulatory Commission Chairperson Zenaida Ducut, former Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) Director General Antonio Ortiz, former Deputy Director General Dennis Cunanan, Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana, former manager of the Technology and Livelihood Information Dissemination Services Group, former chief accountant Marivic Jover, Francisco Figura, former officer-in-charge and manager of the Corporate Support Services Group of TLRC, former TLRC Internal Auditor V/Division Chief Maurine Dimaranan, and former TLRC Sales and Promotion Supervisor V Belina Concepcion. Also charged were Mylene Encarnacion, Evelyn de Leon, and Eulogio Rodriguez.
The transactions allegedly took place in 2007.
Cagas’ camp has countered that he had no hand in the implementation of the projects be. “Such implementation was solely between the TLRC, and CARED (Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation, Inc.) and PSDFI (Philippine Social Development Foundation, Inc.),” the former lawmaker said. “In these cases, there appear to be a mere suggestion of an NGO but the final decision as to which or what NGO to tap or engage lies with the IA (implementing agency), i.e., the TLRC.”
The Office of the Ombudsman also charged Cagas with direct bribery, alleging that he received P9.3 million from Napoles.
Cagas maintained that he “never received any rebates, commissions and/or kickbacks from Napoles.”
“There is utterly no evidence on record to prove the contrary. The uncorroborated and self-serving claims of the Complainant’s witnesses are unworthy of credence and should not have been considered,” he said. Reina Tolentino
Meanwhile, according to the Ombudsman, Relapagos, Nuñez, Paule, and Bare allegedly “unduly accommodat[ed]Napoles” and allegedly “facilitated the processing” of two Special Allotment Release Orders and the corresponding Notices of Cash Allocation that resulted in the release of the funds.
Cagas and Ortiz then entered into a memorandum of agreement with CARED and PSDFI for the implementation of the project.