P10-B ‘pork’ link bolsters raps vs. Fuentebella

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Former Gov. Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur is asking the Office of the Ombudsman to expedite the resolution of the almost three-year-old plunder case filed against former Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella on the strength of new evidence from the Commission on Audit (COA) linking him to the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

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In filing his supplemental affidavit before the Ombudsman, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times, Villafuerte said the special audit report conducted by COA for the years 2007-2009 had further bolstered Fuentebella’s guilt in connection with the plunder charge he filed in 2011 against the former Speaker and three members of his immediate family also holding elective posts in their fourth-district turf, popularly known as the Partido District.

New evidence unearthed
The discovery of new evidence supportive of the plunder charge gives more reason for the anti-graft court to act on this case “promptly and expeditiously under the time honored precept that justice delayed is justice denied,” said Villafuerte in his recently filed Supplemental Complaint-Affidavit with Motion to Expedite.

The COA special audit report, which touched off last year’s discovery of the P10-billion pork scam in Congress and subsequent imprisonment of its suspected mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, had uncovered irregularities in the release of at least P40.27 million of the almost P200-million worth of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Various Infrastructures including Local Projects (VILP) funds that were coursed through Fuentebella during that audited three-year period.

Camarines Sur leaders—Vice Mayor Alfredo Gonzaga of Goa, former Mayor Elmo Bombase of Tigaon and former Councilor Francisco Tria 3rd of Sagñay—said Villafuerte’s filing of a supplemental motion was timely in the light of last Tuesday’s assurance by Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma that the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Commission (IAAGC) has yet to finish its probe of the P10-billion pork scam and has actually been prying into other scams involving bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) put up by erring legislators and politicians.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, meanwhile, was reported two days later as saying that President Aquino wants the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its prosecutors to gather enough evidence to ensure a “successful prosecution” of legislators and other individuals found to have plundered public funds.

Run after big fishes
In their joint statement, Gonzaga, Bombase and Tria said that, “Malacañang could prove its strong resolve to run after big fishes other than those linked to Napoles—in keeping with President Aquino’s Daang Matuwid policy and the recent statements by Secretaries Coloma and Lacierda—by throwing the books at big-time politicians, particularly former Rep. Fuentebella who had served as Speaker and deputy speaker in the past administrations and has been implicated in P40.27 million-worth of PDAF/VILP scams in the COA’s 2007-2009 audit report.”

Gonzaga, Bombase and Tria have also called on President Aquino “to get rid of the graft-riddled Partido Development Authority [PDA], which is a white elephant under the Fuentebella clan’s control in the province’s Partido District for over two decades now, in the same way that he had abolished three government firms that had figured prominently in the Napoles scam.”

They were referring to the National Agri-Business Corp. (Nabcor), ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC) and Philippine Forest Corp. (PhilForest).

Fuentebella was Speaker during the latter part of the Estrada presidency and then deputy speaker for Luzon during the Arroyo administration.

All in the family
Fuentebella’s co-respondents in the plunder case are his wife Evelyn, who is mayor of Sagñay town; and their sons Felix William, who was head of the state-run PDA under the Arroyo watch and prior to his election as congressman in replacement of his three-term father, and Arnulf Bryan, who is mayor of the Fuentebella’s hometown of Tigaon.

Together with the P80-million worth of illicit fund diversions in the original 2011 plunder case, the supplemental complaint that Villafuerte filed against the former Speaker based on the COA’s 2007-2009 audit findings, has raised to P120.27 million the total amount of Fuentebella’s irregular public-fund disbursements, or more than double the P50-million base amount for a public official to be charged with the non-bailable crime of plunder.

The first plunder case filed by Villafuerte in September 2011 stemmed from the illicit diversion of over P80 million in public funds for the construction of roads, multipurpose facilities and other public works projects in the Fuentebella family’s sprawling properties in their Tigaon and Sagñay bailiwicks.

It covers the malversation of taxpayers’ money to bankroll nearly P28-million worth of infrastructure projects either within or leading to the Fuentebellas’ 50,000-square meter property at Patitinan in Sitio Elis Point, Sagñay, plus several other projects worth over P32 million in Barangays Abo and Gaao in Tigaon.

Villafuerte noted that the anomalous transactions in the original 2011 complaint and in the recently filed supplemental one “certainly form part of the acts and/or series of acts constituting plunder” that had been committed by Fuentebella and his relatives “to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the people of Camarines Sur and the government.

“The Complaint-Affidavit in [the original]case was filed with this Honorable Office as early as September 15, 2011 . . . but the case has remained pending,” said Villafuerte in his Supplemental Complaint-Affidavit with Motion to Expedite.

“I, therefore, most respectfully invoke the Supreme Court’s consistent ruling that there is a need for prosecutors to decide cases promptly and expeditiously under the time-honored precept that justice delayed is justice denied,” he said. “Any delay and inaction in the disposition of cases an easily cause great injustice. Delay is damaging and prejudicial to the complainant.”

In its 2007-2009 special audit report, the COA had identified quite a number of senators and members of the House of Representatives who had funneled their PDAF and VILP outlays into bogus non-government organizations, including 10 NGOs identified with Napoles.

But unlike most of erring solons who had been caught by the COA in cahoots with Napoles, Fuentebella had coursed his pork outlays to his chosen NGOs and not to Napoles’ fake beneficiary-organizations.

Shady pork projects
The COA said Fuentebella was actively involved in questionable projects funded with his pork allotments because he had signed letter requests for their implementation as well as letters submitting liquidation reports and memorandums of agreement (MOAs).

In its special audit report, the COA pointed out, for instance, that the amount of P18.6 million from Fuentebella’s PDAF allocation was transferred to the Partido District Development Inc. (PDDCI), an NGO endorsed by him “despite the absence of law appropriating or specially earmarking the same.

The COA Special Audit Report stated that  Fuentebella got at least P197-million worth of “pork” during the 2007-2009, consisting of P120 million in VILP allotments for “hard” projects, another P76.8 million in PDAF for “soft” projects and P1 million more from other sources.

A total of P18.6 million in PDAF funds were channeled over that period to the Fuentebella-endorsed PDDCI for projects supposed to have been coursed through the Technology Resource Center (TRC) for a farmers’ livelihood training and entrepreneurial promotions and development program.

The PDDCI is one of 82 private organizations that COA had questioned in its 2007-2009 special audit report for receiving funds endorsed by lawmakers like Fuentebella, despite the absence of any law authorizing such fund disbursements to NGOs.

The COA report had uncovered, moreover, another P21.67-million worth of Fuentebella’s irregular pork-funded transactions, including the purchase of 4,000 bags of rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) for P16.369 million and of P4.2-million worth of hybrid yellow corn seeds and complete fertilizer from the RNM Feeds Poultry Supply. (The acquisition of P4.2-million worth of corn seeds and fertilizers was coursed through Fuentebella and Sen. Gregorio Honasan.)

COA said there was “no proof of distribution” of P11.369-million worth of rice from the P16.369 million NFA deal, which was “not supported with project proposal.”

As for the supplier of  the seed and fertilizer  stocks that were coursed through him and Honasan, the COA said it had an expired license as fertilizer and pesticide dealer and “was issuing receipts/invoices bearing numbers no longer within the authorized series to be printed.”

COA had questioned in its special report not only the legitimacy of this beneficiary-NGO but the legitimacy as well as of the suppliers of the materials for several projects of Fuentebella and even the supposed program-beneficiaries.

Villafuerte said COA’s 2007-2009 audit report bolsters his charges in his 2011 plunder case that during the period that Fuentebella was misappropriating public funds for his personal benefit, he was also taking advantage of his “position,  authority, relationship, connection or influence” as a ranking officer of Congress to further enrich himself and his family via his PDAF and VILP allocations.

Added Villafuerte: “It would appear, therefore, that aside from the projects, all funded from government money, done and found within the titled properties of the Fuentebellas in the municipalities of Sagnay and Tigaon, Camarines Sur, diverted into [their]personal use . . . Arnulfo, within or on or about the same period, was likewise amassing, through a series of further illegal acts . . . ill-gotten wealth, as those identified by the COA, to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the people of Camarines Sur and the government.”

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