Ex-lawmakers face graft in another pork scam

Posted on July 23, 2015

A NEW SET of graft charges will be filed against two former lawmakers for supposedly illegal pork barrel deals, but this time involving organizations outside the network of alleged scam queen Janet Lim-Napoles.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, Assistant Ombudsman Asryman T. Rafanan announced that the agency will be filing graft and malversation charges against former Malabon-Navotas Rep. Alvin S. Sandoval and former Bukidnon Rep. Candido P. Pancrudo, Jr. for channeling government funds to bogus livelihood projects.

However, these cases involve four nongovernment organizations (NGOs) which are not linked to Ms. Napoles, who is already facing multiple plunder, graft and bribery charges before the Sandiganbayan over the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

“This is the first time that a resolution involving a non-Napoles NGO was issued,” Mr. Rafanan told reporters, adding that the indictment of the two solons stem from the investigation of the Ombudsman and does not form part of the charges referred by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Based on the Ombudsman resolution, Mr. Sandoval bankrolled P30-million PDAF to the NGOs Pangkabuhayan Foundation, Inc. (PFI), Dr. Rodolfo A. Ignacio Sr. Foundation, Inc. (DRAISFI), and Jacinto Castel Borja Foundation, Inc. from 2007 to 2009 to implement ghost livelihood projects.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pancrudo is accused of transferring P8.2-million PDAF in 2008 to the group Uswag Pilipinas Foundation, Inc. (UPFI), which was found to be a bogus NGO.

Also charged were NGO heads, namely PFI president Petronila Balmaceda and secretary Fernando Balmaceda, DRAISFI director Rolleo Ignacio, JCBFI president Robert Agana, and UPFI president Mark Espinosa.

Also tagged in the charges are heads of state agencies Technology Resource Center and the National Agribusiness Corp.

Mr. Rafanan said that while these NGOs do not appear to be owned by Ms. Napoles, they operate under the same scheme.

The multimillion-peso PDAF scam involves lawmakers who transfer pork barrel money to duly-endorsed NGOs to implement livelihood and farming projects. However, the projects turned out to be virtually nonexistent and were only put up as a front for the solons to gain kickbacks.

Since Ms. Napoles was not tagged in the new charges, the whistle-blowers testifying for the PDAF trials such as Benhur K. Luy and Ruby C. Tuason cannot be presented as witnesses.

Without any witnesses coming forward so far, Mr. Rafanan said the audit report on PDAF allocations, and the sworn statements of listed farmer beneficiaries and field investigators will stand as evidence in pursuing the cases, alongside financial statements, disbursement vouchers and supposed liquidation reports.

“The office has yet to receive any admissions from possible whistle-blowers... though we are not discounting that possibility,” Mr. Rafanan said.

A report of the Commission on Audit published in 2013 bared that NGOs were used for the PDAF scam.

Three incumbent senators and two former congressmen are now in jail pending trial for plunder, while others facing lesser charges are out on bail, including officials from implementing agencies and from the Budget department.

To date, the Ombudsman said they lodged court charges against 15 lawmakers over the PDAF scam. -- Melissa Luz T. Lopez