• Ombudsman upholds raps vs ex-NCotabato lawmaker

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    The Office of the Ombudsman has affirmed its ruling that found basis to file graft and malversation charges before the Sandiganbayan against dismissed North Cotabato Vice Gov. Gregorio Ipong and four others over alleged irregularities in the disbursement of his P10-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2007 when he was a congressional representative of the province.

    Also indicted were former Technology and Livelihood Resource Center Director General Antonio Ortiz, former TLRC Deputy Director General Dennis Cunanan, then-TLRC employee Marivic Jover and Alfredo Ronquillo of the non-government organization (NGO) Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc. (AFPI).

    Ipong earlier asked the Ombudsman to reconsider its ruling, claiming he “did not exercise custody and control over the PDAF allocations” and that “conspiracy was not established.”

    But Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales stood her ground, saying “Ipong handpicked Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc. (AFPI) as the conduit-NGO implementor of his PDAF livelihood projects” and that “access to Ipong’s PDAF was made possible through his endorsement letter, asking for the release of his PDAF allocation.”

    According to the anti-graft office, documents showed that Ipong allegedly endorsed and identified AFPI as NGO-partner with the TLRC as implementing agency.

    The Ombudsman’s field investigators found that the P10-million PDAF, meant for livelihood projects in North Cotabato’s Second District, was fully released in single tranche “despite the AFPI’s non-submission of any project implementation and disbursement reports.”

    The Ombudsman also alleged that AFPI was not qualified to implement the project having no business permits from 2004 to 2009 and its listed business address was allegedly located in a vacant lot used as equipment storage.

    Further, the NGO allegedly had a capital stock of only P68,000 with net savings of P750 and net losses of P5,840 in 2006 to 2007.

    In defense, Ipong said “the amount was coursed through AFPI based on the national ten-point agenda of the government at that time” and that he was “not in charge of the subject funds but a mere endorser of the livelihood project.”

    But Morales, citing Supreme Court jurisprudence, said “under the Congressional Pork Barrel System, it is the legislator that exercises actual control and custody of the PDAF share allocated to him by appropriations statute.”

    In its earlier ruling, the Ombudsman found Ipong administratively liable for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and thus ordered his dismissal and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

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