• Ombudsman eyes P10M more in intelligence fund

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    OMBUDSMAN Conchita Carpio-Morales is pushing an additional P10-million intelligence fund on top of her office’s P1.79 billion proposed budget for 2015 supposedly for successful prosecution of corruption cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman.

    Morales, a retired associate justice of the Supreme Court, made the request when she presented her office’s budget before the House appropriations panel recently.

    “The current budget of P3 million, in light of the ongoing investigations relating to grand corruption cases, is no longer sufficient to support the conduct of exhaustive and extensive evidence-gathering to ascertain the truth/veracity of raw data,” the Office of the Ombudsman’s budget briefer read.

    “An increase in appropriation for confidential expenses to P10 million is needed to fast- track the conduct of investigations and case build-up on high-profile cases or complaints,” it said.

    Morales, the country’s chief graft-buster, earlier told reporters that her office is on target in prosecuting alleged scammers who were involved in the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel mess.

    Nine individuals are facing plunder charges in connection with the PDAF scam: Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile and their respective chief aides Richard Cambe, Pauline Labayen and Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes; and alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and her employees Ronald John Lim and John Raymond de Asis.

    The PDAF used to be the discretionary fund of lawmakers that they are mandated to spend for the benefit of their constituents such as scholarships, medical assistance and infrastructure projects.

    The three senators are accused of diverting their PDAF to non-government organizations owned by Napoles in exchange for kickbacks.

    Their cases and that of Napoles, however, make up the first batch.

    “We are conducting preliminary investigation [for the second batch of PDAF-related raps]. As soon as we firm up our evidence and if we find probable cause, then we can file the next batch of cases against the respondents,” the Ombudsman said in a chance interview.

    Of the total criminal case workload of 8,196, the Ombudsman’s office has disposed of 39 percent or 3,192 of them, leaving 5,004 pending criminal cases as of 2014.

    There was a 17-percent increase of criminal case workload for the Office of the Ombudsman in 2013 but the anti-graft office was able to trim the yearend docket by 14 percent or from 5,833 cases to 5,004 cases.

    Of 5,883 administrative cases, 42 percent or 3,499 were disposed of, leaving a balance of 4,801. There was a 10-percent spike in the administrative case workload for 2013 but the office cut the yearend docket for administrative cases by 18 percent from 5,883 in 2012 to 4,801 in 2013.

    The Office of the Ombudsman filed 961 criminal and administrative raps before the Sandiganbayan in 2013, the highest in 18 years and twice the number it filed in 2012.

    Aside from the P10-million intelligence fund, it is also seeking P150 million more for Supplies, Materials and Professional Services Accounts for Ombudsman-Luzon, Ombudsman-Visayas, Ombudsman-Mindanao, Ombudsman-Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices and the Office of the Special Prosecutor (P50 million); and P100 million for capital outlay for the construction of the Ombudsman-Mindanao building (P100 million).

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