President’s alter ego ‘most guilty among perpetrators,’ Sandigan told
The lawyer of one of the accused in the two graft charges against Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile has asked the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan to include Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad in the charge sheet for being the “most guilty” among the suspected perpetrators of the so-called “pork barrel” scam.
Lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan filed his motion with the anti-graft court on Monday.
The Sandiganbayan Third Division has set the hearing of Alentajan’s motion for August 27.
Alentajan is the counsel of former Technology Resource Center director-general Antonio Ortiz, one of Enrile’s co-accused who remains at large.
Alentajan asked the anti-graft court to order the prosecutors as well as the Office of the Ombudsman to amend the charge sheet and implead Abad as principal accused after conducting a preliminary investigation.
“It appears clearly from the preceding accusatorial allegations that Department of Budget and Management [DBM] Secretary Florencio B. Abad, an alter ego of President Benigno C. Aquino III, is the most guilty among perpetrators of the case plunder, graft and corrupt practices,” Alentajan said in his motion.
Abad’s exclusion from the charges was unjustified, saying the Budget secretary “appears to be the most guilty among the perpetrators of the charges.”
Alentajan said based on a letter that the Department of Justice (DOJ) submitted before the Office of the Ombudsman in September 2013, it was established that the DBM has a considerable role in the alleged scam and that Abad, as the head of agency, must be held accountable.
“The direct participation and indispensable cooperation of issuing the SARO [Special Allotment Release Order] and Notice of Cash Allocation by DBM Secretary Abad, are the proximate causes and determining factors of the said criminal offenses,” the lawyer added.
A principal refers to a person directly responsible for an alleged crime.
Alentajan said Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and DBM employees Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule and Marilou Barre were all included as co-accused in all the pork barrel cases at the Sandiganbayan, even if they had no approving power and had “just performed their duties upon the orders of Secretary Abad.”
“His unjust exclusion as the principal accused granted him unwarranted benefits and advantage due to the manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence by Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales,” Alentajan said.
“Wherefore, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed that the Panel of Prosecutors of the Ombudsman be ordered to amend the subject information and implead Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio B. Abad as the principal accused in the said criminal cases…after conducting required preliminary investigation,” he added.
Alentajan noted that Abad, who assumed office in June 2010, “should have been jointly charged with the other respondents,” adding that the exclusion “constitutes selective or discriminatory prosecution.”
Enrile is accused of receiving P172 million in kickbacks out of his P345 million PDAF from 2004 to 2010 by pouring the funds ino bogus projects through non-government organizations (NGOs) allegedly run by Janet Lim-Napoles.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed the P172-million plunder case last year against Enrile, his former aide Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes as well as Napoles, her nephew Ronald John Lim and employee John Raymund de Asis. Lim and de Asis both remain at large.
Enrile and several others were also charged with 15 counts of graft, which pertained to the allegation of undue injury caused to the government in the amount of P345 million.
The cases stemmed from complaints filed before the office by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and lawyer Levito Baligod as well as the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office (FIO).
Ortiz, who also remains at large, is a respondent in two counts of graft before the court’s Third Division as the senator’s co-accused.
“Bakit hindi kasama si Abad? Bakit ung kliyente ko lang nasama diyan, minor employee lang ung kliyente ko [Why was Abad not included? Why only my client, he is just a minor employee],” Alentajan told reporters.
When asked why he filed such a motion only now, he said it was only recently that he was able to obtain a copy of the Supreme Court’s decisions declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional in November 2013 as well as the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) partly unconstitutional in July 2014. The ruling gave him strong basis, Alentajan said.
Last month, Alentajan–former president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa)– filed a complaint against Abad before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly giving funds from the DAP to bribe senators for the conviction of then-Chief Justice Renato Corona.
He alleged that the Budget secretary violated the Anti-Plunder Law and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, usurpation of legislative power and authority and obstruction of justice.
Abad dismissed the complaint as “baseless.”
“They can file whatever they want, we will respond to that. I really don’t know [his motives]. He can do whatever he wants to do. Our lawyer will take care of that,” he said.
“It’s easy to accuse… easy to file a case, but those ought to be substantiated. They should be able to provide evidence and I think they will never do that,” Abad added.
Anakpawis weighs in
THE Anakpawis party-list also on Monday questioned why Abad was spared from the third batch of pork barrel cases filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) with the Office of the Ombudsman.
In a statement, Rep. Fernando Hicap questioned why only “small fish” was implicated in the multibillion-peso fund scam.
“[The government] wants the public to believe that it is fighting corruption but it comes out very short,” Hicap said.
He noted that Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) director general Joel Villanueva and Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City were the only allies of the ruling Liberal Party who had been included in the third set of charges filed with the Ombudsman by the NBI.
“Lawmakers cannot pull this off without collusion from the Budget secretary himself on how to slip the funds through different means,” the militant lawmaker said.
Anakpawis and other members of the Makabayan bloc in the House of the Representatives asserted that all those involved in the pork barrel scam should be held accountable including Abad and the President himself.
“The public once again has been duped by this government as its supposed anti-corruption drive absolves itself from the mess despite its hand in fund juggling of multi-billion peso government funds,” Hicap said.
With LLANESCA T. PANTI AND NEIL A. ALCOBER