A defiant Sen. Joel Villanueva on Tuesday maintained that the Office of the Ombudsman cannot order his dismissal for alleged misuse of “pork barrel” funds, arguing that it has no jurisdiction over members of Congress.
In an interview, Villanueva also pointed out that he is now a member of the Senate, but the Ombudsman’s dismissal order pertained to his supposed use of P10 million in priority development assistance funds (PDAF) when he was a member of the House of Representatives.
Villanueva, who represented the Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list in the House from 2002 to 2010, claimed the Ombudsman did not consider evidence that his signature in a letter authorizing the release of funds for agricultural supplies was forged.
The senator was referring to the authorization letter supposedly issued on November 7, 2008, using a letterhead of the House of Representatives, authorizing the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) to deduct a 3-percent management fee from the total cost of the project.
On Monday, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered Villanueva dismissed from public service after finding him guilty of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service.
Villanueva pointed out that in the purported letter, the name of the party-list he was representing was wrong – Buhay party-list instead of Cibac.
Apart from Villanueva, also facing charges are former Agriculture secretary and now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap; Villanueva’s former staff member Ronald Samonte; former Department of Agriculture employee Delia Ladera; former Nabcor representatives Alan Javellana, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Rhodora Mendoza and Maria Ninez Guanizo; and Alfredo Ronquillo, president of Aaron Foundation Philippines, Inc.
Aaron Foundation was allegedly the recipient of agricultural supplies funded by Villanueva’s PDAF. The deal involved the purchase of vegetable seedlings, liquid fertilizers and threshers from MJ Rickson Trading Corp. for the residents of Pantukan, Nabunturan, Tambongon, Bongabong, Napnapan, Mipangi, Anislagan and Magsaysay in Compostela Valley province.
However, the Ombudsman found that these areas were not suitable for farming. It also found that not one of the alleged recipients was a registered voter or a resident of those towns.
Villanueva insisted that he did not have a staff member named Roland Samonte, which the Ombudsman could easily check with House records.
“These are the main points … these are all not part of the decision [of the Ombudsman]. They did not even bother to look,” he said.
Villanueva, son of evangelical preacher Eddie Villanueva, maintained that he never pocketed a single centavo from his PDAF, and vowed to exhaust all legal means to clear his name.
Villanueva headed the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in the previous administration.