Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. himself confirmed his signatures on documents unlawfully endorsing the bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) owned by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles to implement the projects funded by his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), it was learned on Thursday.
Susan Garcia, a Commission on Audit (COA) official and a witness for the prosecution, made the disclosure during a hearing on Revilla’s motion for bail before the Sandiganbayan First Division in connection with the P224-million plunder charges leveled against him.
Upon cross-examination of defense lawyers, Garcia said Revilla made the confirmation of his signatures’ authenticity in a letter to COA dated July 20, 2011 and which covered 168 documents.
“We wrote him on July 8, 2011 to ask him if these documents really had his signature. His office received the said letter July 11 and he wrote us on July 20 acknowledging that those were his signatures” she told the anti-graft court.
Garcia said Revilla’s signatures were found in Memorandums of Agreement between the questionable NGOs and between Revilla and implementing agencies such as the National Agricultural Business Corp., ZNAC Rubber Estate, National Livelihood and Development Corp. and Technology Research Center.
Revilla, she added, is liable because he violated budget and procurement laws, which mandate that it is the implementing agencies (IAs) that should choose the NGOs that will implement projects funded by lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), and that awarding of the projects should be done thru public bidding.
“They [Revilla and the IAs] violated those laws and are both liable. Moreover, he endorsed NGOs either of questionable standing, cannot be located, without business permits, transacted with spurious suppliers which used Tax Identification Number of other entities which are likewise questionable,” Garcia said.
“Even if the law does not provide for prohibition of endorsement, it doesn’t mean that it is right. The law provides what should be done and the right thing to do. Also, these NGOs are not capable of implementing said projects of such magnitude,” Garcia added.
Revilla’s lawyer Joel Bodegon and Napoles’ lawyer countered that Revilla cannot be faulted for his endorsement because other lawmakers also endorsed NGOs, namely, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Gregorio Honasan, Edgardo Angara and Richard Gordon as stated in a COA Special Audit Report.
“There is really no need for an endorsement, Your Honors. The IAs can proceed [without transacting with NGOs],” Bodegon said.
Bodegon asked Garcia if this meant that Revilla did not have control over PDAF because it is released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the prosecution witness Garcia said no.
“The releases are with the DBM, but as for utilization and disposition of PDAF, the fund is released based on the lawmakers’ request for projects so they are the ones who have control,” she added.