Ombudsman wraps up P200-M DAR fund mess

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THE Office of the Ombudsman wrapped up its case build-up in the P200-million Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) fund mess and will now start preliminary investigation against former high-ranking officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales created a five-man special panel on Monday to investigate the P200-million scam at the DAR, following the completion of the agency’s formal complaint.

The Field Investigation Office (FIO) has completed its case build-up, which commenced even before accuser Behnur Luy floated the “pork barrel scam.”

The complaint dragged former DAR Secretary Nasser Panganda-man, Undersecretary Narciso Nie-to, director Teresita Panlilio, chief accountant Angelita Caca-nanta, budget officer Ronald Venancio, cashier Nilda Baui, three notaries public, three public accountants and 24 private individuals, including Luy.

The numerous defendants are indicted with graft charges and falsification punishable under the Revised Penal Code.

Pangandaman, Nieto, Panlilio, Venancio and Baui are facing administrative charges for grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, gross neglect of duty, and serious dishonesty.

The FIO alleged that in 2007 and 2008, the DAR officials granted funds for Agri-Business Development, Micro-Livelihood Project to seven non-government organizations.

Ombudsman investigators noted that the P200 million were released to certain non-governmental organizations whose projects appeared to have been delivered in several towns in the provinces of Cagayan, Pangasinan, Cavite, Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte and del Sur, Agusan del Norte and del Sur.

However, the supposed beneficiaries denied having signed or received anything.

The 245-page complaint identified the seven NGOs as: Philippine Agri and Social Economic Development Foundation Inc.; Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc.; Agrikultura Para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc.; Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc.; People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc.; Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.; and Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc.

Morales also ordered that the same five-man panel composed of unnamed lawyers was also directed to conduct preliminary investigation and administrative adjudication of all other cases that may arise from or involve the utilization of the Priority Development Assistance Fund or “pork barrel.”

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