Former Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo, a close ally of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has been charged with plunder in connection with P127.7 million worth of ghost projects that were supposed to be implemented in the last nine years.
The plunder case was filed in the Office of the Ombudsman by more than a dozen Candaba residents led by Arnold Canimo, who accused the former mayor of conniving with several individuals and corporations to embezzle government funds.
Canimo and his fellow complainants claimed that Pelayo had engaged several individuals and corporations for 11 separate contract agreements to establish, maintain, develop, rehabilitate and improve a demo farm at the Clark economic zone in Pampanga province, and construct, repair, rehabilitate and improve irrigation service roads, including the Barangca Bridge over Malisik River.
The complainants said that after preliminary works were done on the Clark demo farm, the project was abandoned when Pelayo stepped down last year after losing to Mayor Rene Estacio Maglanque, an assistant secretary at the Department of Transportation and Communication during the Arroyo administration and an alleged business partner of detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Napoles is allegedly the mastermind behind the pork barrel scam that had several lawmakers transferring public funds into fake NGOs set up by the businesswoman, and receiving millions of pesos in kickbacks and commissions.
According to the complainants against Pelayo, “equipment like handtractors, irrigation pumps, planting materials, pesticides, seeds and the like that were supposed to be used for the demo farm, were not delivered to the municipality of Candaba.”
The scheme, the complainants added, had Pelayo’s crony corporations receiving funds from the Candaba municipal hall based on disbursement vouchers. The corporations would then deliver the funds to the Arroyo ally in exchange for a 3-percent handling fee.
“In sum, respondent Pelayo, then mayor of the municipality of Candaba, in connivance with respondent corporations, amassed, accumulated, and/or acquired ill-gotten wealth, in the amount of P127,753,914.64 through… a series of misappropriation and conversion,” the complainants claimed.
Pelayo, according to the complainants, “entered into contracts with corporations or entered into projects that never materialized or (were) never completed.”
Also accused of plunder along with Pelayo were Patrick McCrann, Emmanuel Belen, Ruel de la Cruz, Elmer Sanchez, Jien Zhien Chen, Cornelyn Martha del Ponso, Miles Gangcuangco and several John and Jane Does.
Aside from Canimo, the complainants were Rufino Soliman, Edgardo de Guzman, Dionisio Guevarra, Francisco San Pedro, Rodolfo Manalili, Lorenzo Catacutan, Jessie Laurente, Romeo Balatbat, Zacarias Laurente, Gaudencio Lacanilao, Danilo Bartolome, Dionisio Pelayo, Bernardo Santiago and Freddie Pelayo.