Reform advocates on Thursday filed a complaint for plunder and graft at the Office of the Ombudsman against House Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd, alleging he misused P315 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
The Sentinels of the Rule of Law, represented by its lead convenor Salvador Bonafe Bañares, based the 63-page complaint on a Commission on Audit (COA) report on PDAF releases from 2007 to 2009.
The group said it lodged the complaint because many of those named in the COA report have not been prosecuted.
Jefferson Indap, the group’s spokesperson, said they decided to file the complaint “so that government will take action.”
The Office of the Ombudsman has yet to complete its investigation on other lawmakers named in the complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“Is this a matter of selective prosecution which is directed only against the members of the opposition while members of the Aquino administration continue to be immune from prosecution?” the Sentinels said, noting that Gonzales, who represents Mandaluyong City, is a member of the ruling Liberal Party.
Indap did not confirm or deny if the complaint was connected to a rift between the Abalos and Gonzales clans over political control of Mandaluyong.
In June this year, three senators – Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla – were indicted with plunder and graft at the Sandiganbayan for pouring part of their pork barrel to dubious non-government organizations (NGOs) owned or controlled by Janet Lim-Napoles.
Enrile was accused of pocketing P172.834 million in kickbacks from 2003 to 2010, while Revilla was charged with amassing P224.512 million from 2006 to 2010. In the complaint filed by the Ombudsman, Estrada reportedly amassed P183.795 million in commissions from 2004 to 2012.
The Ombudsman said the senators amassed ill-gotten wealth “by repeatedly receiving from Napoles and/or representatives Lim, de Asis and others, kickbacks or commissions.”
The information signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales claimed that all of the non-government organizations [NGOs] owned by Napoles were “fictitious,” and that the senators or their staff received commissions from projects funded by their PDAF.
But Gonzales said the COA report will not be enough to pin him down to the charges.
The report noted that the disbursements of Gonzales’ PDAF lacked supporting documents, including a certification of indigency (for financial assistance), project proposals, procurement, as well as denials from suppliers that they received funding sourced from Gonzales’ PDAF.
Gonzales said his legal team is almost done collating the documents that can refute the COA findings.
“The sole basis of the case [against me]is the Special Audit Report. The Honorable Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has already said this and I will say it again: a Special Audit Report cannot stand alone and can’t be a basis of criminal prosecution. It is hearsay evidence at best. There has to be more than that,” Gonzales told reporters.
He said it took some time for his lawyers and accountants to complete their research, considering that the three years the report covered involved around 100,000 documents.
Gonzales said he made the Mandaluyong city government the exclusive implementing agency for his PDAF projects in his decade-long tenure as a lawmaker.
“The Special Audit Report is not final. This is not yet over. As far as I am concerned, we are prepared to question it [with the documents we gathered]. And that [move to refute it]is according to COA procedure. I will face this,” he said.
He cast suspicion on the identity of his accusers. “I don’t want to question their motive, but if they are really the Sentinels of the Rule of Law, then why is it that I was the only one they are accusing of this? It leaves a bad taste in the mouth and they make themselves suspicious. I do not take this lightly, but I know this will not prosper,” Gonzales said.
“The only reason that we [in my district]got the amount is because I was the Senior Deputy Majority Leader during 2007 to 2009. Understandably so, you get to bring more in to your district if you have House leadership duties,” he said.