Pork scam whistle-blower Ricalde wants evidence back
A whistle-blower in a new set of pork barrel scam allegations wants to take back the original copies of the documents she submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation, claiming loss of confidence in the progress of the investigation, according to lawyer Levito Baligod.
Baligod said his client, Bernadette Ricalde, had submitted the documents to the NBI Anti-Fraud and Action Division (Afad) in connection with the latter’s investigation into the alleged misuse of the pork barrel allocations of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Rep. Arturo Robes.
Baligod said they wanted to retrieve the documents because almost a year after Ricalde was called by the NBI investigators, she has not heard from them again.
He also said that his client was concerned that the filing of cases against those involved in the various pork barrel scams has now concluded with the filing of the third batch of cases of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The DOJ filed a third batch of pork barrel scam cases involving the Napoles operation in August. Baligod is concerned because Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was quoted as saying that that would be the last pork barrel scam cases that the DOJ would be filing.
“The quest for justice must continue. We asked that all the evidence submitted by my client to the NBI must be released so we can continue from where the DOJ left off,” Baligod said.
The investigation is also focusing on the alleged bogus nongovernment organizations (NGO) that allegedly carried out the projects funded by Robes’ pork barrel, including WorkPhil and Sagip-Buhay People Support foundations, allegedly owned by Robes’ wife, Florida.
Robes is one of 20 former and current legislators that the NBI is investigating in connection with a P500-million pork barrel, or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), scam that is separate from the P10-billion PDAF scam operation allegedly carried out by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, for which three senators have already been charged with plunder.
Killing may be linked to case
The NBI is also said to be looking into the possibility that the killing of Ricalde’s husband, police Chief Insp. Romeo Ricalde Jr., in 2013 may be linked to the Robes NGOs’ alleged illegal activities that Ricalde had exposed. The NBI had started its investigation into the pork barrel scam involving the Robes couple in September 2013, a month before Ricalde’s husband was killed.
Ricalde, a former employee of Rep. Robes, has provided the Inquirer with photocopies of the original documents that she had submitted to the NBI-Afad in February 2014.
However, Ricalde now wants these documents returned to her, said her lawyer, Baligod.
“We have written the NBI to return the original copies of documents which were turned over to them in the course of their investigation of the supposed misuse of public funds last year. My client wants to retrieve these documents because we are losing hope,” Baligod said.
Baligod claimed that the documents that are now in the possession of the NBI would implicate Robes and will show that Ricalde was telling the truth when she claimed that the couple controlled the WorkPhil and Sagip-Buhay foundations.
He said that in February 2014, Ricalde received a subpoena from the NBI-Afad asking her to appear before them “and to give your evidence in a certain investigation.”
The subpoena, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer, stated that the NBI-Afad investigation was based at the request of lawyer Anthony Parungao, an undersecretary at the Department of Agrarian Reform.
Baligod said that among the documents they wanted retrieved from the NBI were several bank transaction receipts with Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), Banco de Oro and Land Bank of the Philippines.
“These are deposit slips and withdrawal slips bearing the initial of Robes’ wife that would show all transactions should first have her approval,” Baligod said.
He said one of the documents is “a bank certificate regarding the deposit of P10 million to the checking account of Michelle Imperial, also an employee of the Robeses.”
The bank certification was issued by RCBC on Aug. 25, 2010, at the request of Imperial, Baligod said.
He said the details in the certificate such as the Land Bank check number, the date of issue Feb. 11, 2010, and the amount were exactly the same as the details of the allocation received by Robes from the President’s Social Fund of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
He said an acknowledgment letter sent to Robes by the Presidential Management Staff signed by Racquel de Guzman-Buensalida dated July 21, 2010, for the batch of liquidation documents showed the amount of P10 million given to him on Feb. 11, 2010, through Land Bank check number 230643.
According to Baligod, the money, which was for the project “Improvement of Literacy Level Through the Implementation of Alternative Education Program,” was deposited in the account of Imperial, which could be accessed only by Florida Robes.
Pork barrel conduits
Also being retrieved by Baligod are letters from the National Agribusiness Corp., which was allegedly used as the conduit of Robes’ pork barrel allotments and the two Robes-linked bogus NGOs which also became the recipients of pork barrel funds from other legislators.
Other documents that were submitted to the NBI, Baligod said, were incorporation papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission that would show that the two Robes-linked NGOs’ incorporators were all employees of the Robeses.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.