Ombudsman probing Malampaya fund misuse

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05:11 AM December 7th, 2012

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By: Cynthia D. Balana, December 7th, 2012 05:11 AM

Ex-Palawan Governor Joel Reyes. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The case of the alleged misuse of some P1.782 billion in Palawan’s share from the Malampaya Fund in 2009 by former Gov. Joel Reyes and local officials is undergoing a preliminary investigation in the Office of the Ombudsman, according to Commission on Audit Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan.

Tan in an interview said she was pleased to note that the celebrated case was finally moving as a result of the improved coordination between government frontline agencies involved in the anticorruption drive.

The money represented the share of the local government units of Palawan—from the provincial, city and municipal down to the barangay levels—that host the geothermal plants and support facilities of the Philippine National Oil Corp.-Energy Development Corp. (PNOC-EDC).

The Commission on Audit (COA) recommended the filing of at least 23 criminal charges for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Procurement Act and the Revised Penal Code against the officials.

Tan said she learned the National Bureau of Investigation had also come out with its own report on the case.

Among the irregularities the COA found were the noncompletion or outright nonexistence of projects that had been reported as having been completed; the falsification of documents; the failure to follow procurement processes according to law; violations of bidding procedures, and the existence of a roster of  contractors who turned out to be the officials themselves.

“It’s very difficult to zero in on specifics because the (violations) were scattered all over the place,” Tan said.

The COA chief did not reveal the names of the other officials so as not to preempt the Ombudsman investigation.

Tan said the Malampaya case resulted from closer coordination and mutual assistance between the Ombudsman and the COA.

“What happens is we do an audit and if we find that there may be something there that … should be dealt with under the criminal justice system, we refer the matter to the Ombudsman,” she said.

The audit report failed to establish a link between former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the release of about P495,019,000 of the Malampaya Fund.

The COA stressed that while the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had said that the disbursements were carried out on the “verbal instructions of then President Gloria M. Arroyo,” the audit had failed to produce documentary proof of such a directive.

It said that the DBM, in a Memorandum for the President dated May 14, 2009, had sought confirmation of the instruction. But the COA noticed that the reply of Arroyo, if there was any, was not among the documents submitted to the state auditors.

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