Ex-partylist solon tagged in pork barrel scam ordered arrested
MANILA, Philippines–The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has released the arrest warrant against former Apec (Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives) partylist Representative Edgar Valdez for plunder over his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
This after the antigraft court found probable cause to try Valdez for plunder over the scam under the alleged scheme of Janet Lim-Napoles.
The court also ordered the arrest of accused mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, already detained for multiple charges of plunder and graft, and Napoles’ employee John Raymund De Asis, who is at large for plunder.
“Having thus found the existence of probable cause in the issuance of a warrant of arrest after personally evaluating and assessing the records incorporated in these cases, let warrants of arrest (be issued) against Edgar Valdez and Janet Lim-Napoles,” the court’s resolution said.
Valdez is accused of pocketing at least P57.787 million in kickbacks from 2004 to 2010 by diverting his Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to ghost projects.
Principal whistleblower Benhur Luy said payoffs for Valdez, whose codename is “kuryente,” were made in Napoles’ office in Ortigas. Valdez represents electric cooperatives in Congress.
In its indictment, the Ombudsman said Valdez endorsed his PDAF projects to Napoles-controlled foundations which implemented projects like livelihood programs, farm inputs and farm implements, agricultural starter kits, technology transfer training via video courses and printed materials, vegetable seeds, gardening packages, knapsack sprayers, concentrated fertilizers, and other tools and equipment, that never went to their beneficiaries.
“(The) PDAF of Valdez was never used for the intended projects as these were considered ‘ghost’ projects, with fabricated documents submitted for its liquidation. The mayors and municipal agriculturists reported that they never received anything from the office of Valdez, or from any of the project partners,” the Ombudsman said.
“In fact, many of the names appearing on the lists as farmer-recipients were neither residents nor registered voters of the municipalities,” the Ombudsman added.
Also ordered arrested for graft, a non-bailable offense are Valdez’ co-accused: Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, DBM officials Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare, former Technology Resource Center (TRC) director Dennis Cunanan and National Agri-Business Corporation (NABCOR) officials Allan Javellana, Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Roman Cacal;
Evelyn De Leon, Gondelina Amata, Gregoria Buenaventura, Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Chita Jalandoni, Sofia Cruz, Ofelia Ordoñez, Eulogio Rodriguez, Maria Ninez Guañizo, Maria Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Romulo Relevo, Salvador Salacup, Eduardo Nolasco, Roy Bongalo, Antonio Ortiz, Marivic Jover, Ma. Rosalinda Lacsamana and Consuelo Lilian Espiritu.
In its motion for judicial determination of probable cause, Valdez said the alleged kickbacks would not reach the threshold for plunder of P50 million according to the special allotment release orders cited in the complaint.
Valdez also called principal whistleblower Benhur Luy, whose ledger of kickbacks was used as evidence, as a polluted source because the witness has admitted to forging signatures.
But the antigraft court dismissed Valdez’s defense as “trifling arguments” and that the charges should still continue.
“The ledger maintained by Luy is the only piece of evidence available to account for the jurisdictional amount of P57.787 million. This is enough basis to sustain the charge of plunder,” the court said.
The court also said judicial determination of probable cause need only rely on “evidence showing that more likely than not a crime has been committed.”
“Probable cause need not be based on clear and convincing evidence of guilt,” the court said.
The court also rejected Valdez’ claims that the PDAF proceeds did not go through his hands or that he did not directly participate in the PDAF transactions as lawmaker.
The court said Valdez’s accountability as lawmaker is enough to find probable cause for his alleged hand in the misuse.
“Valdez would negate any participation he has in the implementation of the PDAF projects… This view is haplessly myopic… The participation of the public official is a system of accountability, therefore, need not be direct as it could also be indirect… His responsibility therein begins and ends in all stages where full accountability is made,” the court said.
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