BAGUIO CITY—Former Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa said he did not approve the pork barrel allocations that ended up with nongovernment organizations (NGOs) identified with detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and would like to be given the chance to cooperate with investigators.
In a statement released by his lawyer, Edgar Avila, Dangwa said he has been accused of conniving with Napoles based only on the sworn statements of the whistle-blowers, who claimed he was among the lawmakers whose Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations were accessed by the NGOs.
“I have intimated my desire to be probed directly on the matter. I have wanted to be heard so that the investigation may go to wherever the evidence may lead… before formal charges are brought to bear upon me,” Dangwa said. “To date, however, I have yet to receive any invitation to participate in the proceedings.”
Malversation, bribery and graft
Dangwa is facing charges of malversation, direct bribery and graft and corruption that were filed by the Department of Justice at the Office of the Ombudsman on Sept. 16. The cases involved P26.77 million of his P54-million PDAF allocation from 2007 to 2009.
The former lawmaker’s employees— Jeanette de la Cruz, Erwin Dangwa and Carlos Lozada—were included in the lawsuit.
Dangwa’s last PDAF allocations in 2009 and 2010 were devoted to scholarships, financial aid to indigents seeking treatment at the Philippine Heart Center and the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and fund assistance to Kabayan town in Benguet.
Dangwa has not replied to text messages or telephone calls since last week. But in a July 15 telephone interview, he said he had not taken part in any of Napoles’ ghost projects. He said documents that supposedly bore his signature were not his but those of a missing employee.
In his statement this week, he affirmed that he “never confirmed the authenticity of any of the documents connected with the subject PDAF releases.”
The government audit team, in its report, said Dangwa did not reply to two confirmation requests for PDAF-funded projects facilitated by the Countrywide Agri and Rural Eco and Development Foundation Inc. (Cared) and the People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc. (POPDFI).
“The reasons and circumstances of my nonconfirmation of [these] documents are precisely what I would have wanted to share with the investigators,” Dangwa said.
Last week, Dangwa, along with other legislators implicated in the pork barrel scandal, was among those accused of plunder in a complaint filed in the Ombudsman by the anticrime group, Citizens’ Crime Watch.
“Hasty conclusions are now [being] made that I am as culpable as the others who may have actually misused the funds,” Dangwa said in the statement.
“These conclusions, however, are erroneous and unjust because they ignore the fact that, by law, members of Congress are authorized to propose and select projects to be funded by the PDAF and [which are] carried out by the implementing agency and the NGOs,” he said.
“The duty to ascertain the legitimacy of the NGOs before funds are released to them rests, not upon the legislators, but upon the implementing agency,” Dangwa said. Vincent Cabreza with a report from Kimberlie Quitasol, Inquirer Northern Luzon