Lifetime ban imposed on 12 execs tied to pork scam
The Office of the Ombudsman has meted out to 12 officials of three state-owned firms a lifetime ban from joining government service for their alleged complicity in the P10-billion pork barrel racket.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said the sacked public officials were administratively liable for the fraudulent use of P54 million in pork barrel allotments of then Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa from 2007 to 2009.
Morales said Dangwa’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the official name of pork barrel, was funneled to the bogus foundations owned by Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Dismissed from the service were Dennis Cunanan, Marivic Jover, Consuelo Lilian Espiritu and Belina Concepcion of the Technology Resource Center (TRC); Gondelina Amata, Chita Jalandoni, Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Ofelia Ordoñez, Filipina Rodriguez and Sofia Cruz of the National Livelihood and Development Center (NLDC); and Victor Cacal and Romulo Relevo of the now shuttered National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor).
They were found guilty of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
Dangwa is among the lawmakers facing graft, malversation and direct bribery charges for allegedly siphoning off their pork barrel allotments to the network of dubious NGOs founded by Napoles.
In addition to perpetual disqualification from the service, the Ombudsman also canceled their civil service eligibility and they forfeited all their retirement benefits.
The Commission on Audit (COA) earlier identified the three government-owned companies as among the state agencies which were used as conduits in the anomalous PDAF disbursements.
In a 58-page resolution, Morales said the erring government officials “processed, facilitated and approved the transactions and payments” in relation to projects funded by Dangwa’s pork barrel allocations.
The public funds were supposedly used for the procurement of “livelihood and agricultural assistance kits and packages” in Dangwa’s legislative district, which were implemented by nongovernment organizations (NGOs) of Napoles.
However, state auditors discovered numerous irregularities in the implementation of the projects, among them the failure of Napoles-owned foundations to comply with the documentary requirements.
“In spite of these deficiencies, the respondent public officers … with indecent haste, expedited the release of the PDAF disbursements to the NGOs affiliated with or controlled by Napoles,” Morales said.
“These foregoing acts of respondents constitute grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service,” she added.
Citing the COA findings, Morales said the livelihood projects were “nonexistent or ghost” and that the foundations presented bogus documents in the liquidation reports.
She said the NGOs had also failed to comply with the mandated requirements regarding the track record and capability of private entities to carry out public-funded projects.
The projects were also awarded to the Napoles foundations without conducting a public bidding, the Ombudsman said.
“To date, P11 million of Dangwa’s PDAF remains unliquidated,” Morales said.
The Ombudsman did not give weight to the explanation of Cunanan and the others that they approved the projects in “good faith and presumption of regularity in the performance of their duties.”
“The act of certification or release of funds, approval and the affixation of signature in the disbursement vouchers, obligation slip and checks are neither mere formalities nor ministerial functions, but involve the exercise of sound discretion that must be diligently performed as these are imbued with public interest,” Morales said.
Nabcor, which is under the Department of Agriculture, was the favored implementing agency of four senators and 79 representatives who coursed a total of P1.7 billion of their pork barrel allocations from 2007 to 2009, according to documents submitted by former Nabcor officials Rhodora Mendoza and Vic Cacal to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Cunanan, who was a provisional state witness in the pork barrel scam, said at least P600 million in pork allocations of various legislators passed through the TRC from 2007 to early 2009.
Cunanan is a former deputy director general and director general of TRC.
One of the whistle-blowers in the pork barrel scam submitted a ledger to the Department of Justice showing that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) releases worth P370 million of four senators were coursed through NLDC.
The Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional the PDAF and DAP, which have since been discontinued. With a report from Inquirer Research/ TVJ
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