P315-M pork charges filed vs House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II
A group calling for President Benigno Aquino III’s ouster on Thursday filed plunder and graft charges against House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II for the alleged misappropriation of P315.4 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations from 2007 to 2009.
Sentinels of the Rule of Law, represented by one of its convenors, Salvador Bañares, filed the criminal complaints in the Office of the Ombudsman against the Mandaluyong representative.
The group previously called for the impeachment of Mr. Aquino and supported moves for the PDAF abolition after a P10-billion pork barrel scandal broke out last year and prompted the filing of plunder charges against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada, who are under detention.
In a 63-page complaint affidavit, Bañares said Gonzales should be made accountable for irregularities in his PDAF disbursements, which were uncovered in a special audit of more than 100 lawmakers conducted by the Commission on Audit (COA) in 2012.
Citing the COA findings, he said Gonzales authorized cash advances amounting to P280 million “without specific purpose” while another P60.5 million in cash advances “not covered by bond” were sourced from his pork barrel.
The COA also noted that a total of P117 million in cash advances were released “without liquidation of previous cash advances.”
It said more than P146 million of Gonzales’ PDAF was used for “transactions with suppliers of questionable existence,” including the purchase of almost P5.4 million for food, groceries, cleaning materials, trophies and office supplies from ARJT Trading Center.
Several private contractors had also denied supplying different items purchased out of Gonzales’ pork barrel allotments amounting to more than P18.86 million, according to the COA.
“There were no duly acknowledged distribution list, justifications for the procurement of items and/or proof of necessity or urgency, such as the declaration of calamity, request from the end-users/beneficiaries, proof of posting and publication of advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation,” the COA said.
Gonzales brushed off as “hearsay” the COA evidence used against him by the Sentinels, referring to the Special Audits Office (SAO) report on his PDAF.
“If that is their only basis, I vehemently deny it. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said the SAO report standing alone cannot be the basis of a court case. It is hearsay evidence, it should [be] more than the SAO report. It is not yet finished, not yet final. I still have to go through an exit conference with the COA,” he said.
Gonzales said not a single centavo of his PDAF had gone to detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the PDAF scams.
He justified why he got more than the P70-million-a-year allocation for each representative. “I [was] the senior deputy majority leader from 2007 to 2009 and understandably, according to leadership, I [would] get more for my district,” said Gonzales, who is on his third and final term.
More than a year after the COA made public its audit report in August 2013, Bañares lamented that only opposition lawmakers had been charged for their role in funneling billions of pesos in public funds to Napoles and other bogus nongovernment organizations.
“Is this a matter of selective prosecution, which is directed only against the members of the opposition, while members of the Aquino administration continue to be immune from prosecution?” the complainant asked.
Only Enrile, Revilla and Estrada have been indicted in the Sandiganbayan and detained for their alleged role in embezzling portions of their PDAF.
Besides Gonzales, former Customs Commissioner and former Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon and incumbent Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap are also facing investigation in the Office of the Ombudsman over the pork barrel issue. With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan
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