Reconsider DBM official’s suspension, court urged

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Department of Budget and Management Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and DBM employees Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare are asking the Sandiganbayan’s Seventh Division to reconsider its ruling that ordered their preventive suspension.

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Earlier, the court ordered their 90-day suspension as well as that of Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila) Rep. Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon pending litigation of graft and malversation cases filed against them and several others in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.

“The evidence against herein accused does not preliminarily indicate the likelihood of, or potential for eventual guilt or liability,” the camp of Relampagos, Nuñez, Paule and Bare argued in a joint motion for reconsideration.

According to the defense, the only evidence was pork scam witness Benhur Luy’s statement in his September 12, 2013 affidavit.

Luy testified in the affidavit that they allegedly followed up the issuance of Special Allotment Release Orders with Relampagos’ office where, to Luy’s knowledge, SAROs were prepared.

The defense said the case involves a SARO, which Relampagos did not sign.

The SARO, solely issued by the DBM, is a document that authorizes implementing agencies to bid out projects funded by, for example, the pork barrel of lawmakers.

It needs to be obligated by the Budget department before it can issue a Notice of Cash Allocation which, in turn, authorizes the release of the fund for the projects.

“All of herein accused have no participation whatsoever in the subject SARO,” the defense said.

It thus asked the court to reconsider and set aside its ruling that granted the prosecution’s plea for the preventive suspension, and to issue a new one denying the prosecution’s motion “for utter lack of merit.”

Earlier, the Office of the Ombudsman filed the cases as it alleged that Biazon endorsed the non-government organization (NGO) Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. as project partner in implementing a livelihood project for barangay (villages) in Muntinlupa City funded by PDAF worth P3 million in 2007.

The livelihood project allegedly turned out to be non-existent.

Biazon has categorically denied having received alleged kickbacks as a result of the transactions entered into by any government agency with NGOs supposedly run by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, also among the case respondents.

Former Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Zenaida Ducut; former Technology Resource Center Director General Antonio Ortiz; former TRC Deputy Director General Dennis Cunanan; then-TRC employees Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana, Consuelo Lilian Espiritu, Francisco Figura, Marivic Jover and Maurine Dimaranan; and private individual Evelyn de Leon were also charged.

All the respondents are out on bail except Ortiz, who remains at large, and Napoles who is serving life sentence at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City (Metro Manila) after a Makati City (Metro Manila) court found her guilty in a serious illegal detention case filed against her by Luy.

REINA C. TOLENTINO

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