• Ombudsman: Govt on target in prosecuting PDAF scammers


    The Office of the Ombudsman is on target in prosecuting those who allegedly pocketed kickbacks from the P10 billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.

    Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales made the declaration on Friday prior to her presentation of the Office of the Ombudsman’s proposed P 1.73-billion budget for 2015 before the House appropriations panel.

    “Yes, we are on target. The prosecutors are prosecuting in earnest. I cannot complain against what they are doing,” Morales told reporters.

    The spotlight has been on the Office of the Ombudsman since it filed plunder and multiple counts of graft charges against three senators– Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile– in connection with the pork barrel racket.

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

    The accused in the PDAF cases allegedly transferred their PDAF allocation to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) owned by Janet Lim-Napoles in exchange for huge kickbacks.

    The prosecution initially encountered a bump in the road when the Sandiganbayan denied its attempt to amend the plunder charges against Revilla, prompting criticisms that the prosecutors did not prepare well on their case.

    Also, Enrile is opposing the prosecution’s plea to amend the 15 counts of graft charges totalling P345 million against him.

    The prosecution wants to insert the word “directly” in alleging that Enrile handpicked the NGOs that implemented the projects funded by his PDAF, change the phrase “Sub Allotment Release Order” (Sub-ARO) to “Special Allotment Release Order” (SARO) and include former Technology Resource Center Director General Antonio Ortiz, Department of Budget and Management’s Marilou Bare and Napoles’ driver Ronald John Lim in the list of the accused.

    Since the prosecution is seeking such amendments, Enrile and his co-accused in the graft charges are yet to be arraigned.

    Still, Ombudsman Morales shrugged these off.

    “I am not going to rate them [prosecutors]because I have not seen them perform in court. I only confer with them on strategies . . . on how to go about this and that. But as far as what I read in the newspapers, they seem to be performing well in court,” the retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, pointed out.

    The cases against Revilla are under the First Division composed of Associate Justices Rafael Lagos, Rodolfo Ponferrada and Efren dela Cruz, while the Enrile cases are lodged before the Third Division, which has Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Alex Quiroz as members.
    The Fifth Division is trying the cases against Estrada.

    It has Associate Justices Theresa Estoesta, Rolando Jurado and Alexander Gesmundo as members

    “It (proceedings) has been very good. The justices are very fair. They are impartial,” Morales said.


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