COA orders Enrile, Reyes to return P345-M pork
There was absolutely no project implementation at all.
Thus, the Commission on Audit (COA) has ordered detained Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and his former chief of staff, lawyer Gigi Reyes, to return to the state P345 million of his pork barrel allotments that allegedly went to the dummy foundations of Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Testifying at the Sandiganbayan hearing on Napoles’ petition for bail on Friday, COA Assistant Commissioner Susan Garcia said a notice of disallowance was sent to Enrile in January and was received by a member of his Senate staff.
According to Garcia, who heads the COA’s Special Audits Office, Enrile had filed an appeal against the notice of disallowance.
Asked by state prosecutor Anne Cabelis to explain what the notices meant and why they were issued, Garcia said the personalities to whom the documents were addressed were ordered to return the amounts to the state treasury.
She said notices were sent to these personalities because “based on our special audit, there was no project implementation at all because of the spurious documents which covered the projects.”
According to Garcia, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) issued several special allotment release orders (Saros) to the 90-year-old Enrile between January 2007 and June 2009 amounting to P375 million to finance the livelihood projects that were supposed to have been carried out by the foundations identified with Napoles.
Garcia also noted that P30 million of the P375 million went to a nongovernment organization (NGO) that was not included in the plunder and graft charges that the Office of the Ombudsman brought against Enrile, Reyes and their coaccused.
She said a separate notice was issued only recently to Reyes at her place of detention at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.
But Reyes, who has vehemently denied being involved in the diversion of Enrile’s pork barrel to Napoles’ fictitious NGOs, refused to receive the document, she said.
“The notice of disallowance was sent only recently to Reyes because we could not locate her when she went into hiding,” she said.
Garcia said the COA sent out separate notices to former Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, current Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and Director Carmencita Delantar, the head of the DBM budget and management section.
Also ordered to refund the government were the heads of the state agencies, which served as conduits in the release of Enrile’s pork barrel and the presidents of six Napoles-linked foundations which received the funds.
Garcia said notices were sent to these government officials because “they are the accountable officers in the disbursement of PDAF (or the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the official name of the congressional pork barrel) as stated in the existing laws and regulations of the government.”
Appeal denied with finality
Enrile, who is on hospital arrest in a private room at the Philippine National Police General Hospital at Camp Crame since the court ordered his arrest last July 4, is accused of amassing P172.8 million in kickbacks from his alleged transactions with Napoles.
Meanwhile, the three-member Third Division yesterday denied with finality for lack of merit Enrile’s appeal seeking a reversal of its July 24 order placing him under a 90-day preventive suspension while his plunder case is being tried.
“As far as the Sandiganbayan Third Division is concerned, the suspension of Senator Enrile is now up for implementation by the Senate,” Dennis Pulma, the division’s clerk of court, told reporters.
He said a copy of the 14-page resolution penned by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, the Third Division chair, was immediately delivered to the office of Senate President Franklin Drilon.
Since a second appeal is prohibited, he said the court’s ruling was considered final.
“But we leave it up to Senator Enrile’s lawyers to bring (this matter) to the Supreme Court,” Pulma said.
In throwing out Enrile’s plea, the antigraft tribunal said the arguments raised by the senator in his motion for reconsideration were just a rehash of the issues he already mentioned in a petition he filed on July 21 opposing the move of the Ombudsman to suspend him.
“The present motion for reconsideration is pro-forma deserving of outright denial … These arguments have been squarely passed upon and sufficiently addressed by the court,” read a portion of the ruling.
Stripped of authority
In his appeal, Enrile argued that the Sandiganbayan was not authorized to issue an “administrative measure” like a suspension order in criminal proceedings initiated by the Ombudsman.
The embattled senator insisted that the Senate was the proper “constitutionally authorized body to impose administrative sanctions and measures” against its members facing criminal complaints.
But the court said it had temporarily stripped Enrile of his authority as a lawmaker “in the proper exercise of its criminal, not administrative, jurisdiction over the case and the person of accused Enrile.”
“The claim of accused Enrile that the preventive suspension order issued by the court against him involves an exercise of the court’s administrative jurisdiction over him is gravely erroneous,” it said.
In a statement, Drilon on Friday said the Senate would comply with the Sandiganbayan’s final ruling on Enrile’s suspension.
“We will implement it as soon as we receive the official copy of the suspension order,” he said.
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