6 pork lawmakers face trial
Seven months after stepping down as Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chair, former Pampanga Rep. Zenaida Ducut on Thursday faced criminal charges purportedly for acting as an agent of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles in getting pork barrel funds of several lawmakers in the 14th Congress and channeling them to ghost projects in an alleged P10-billion racket.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the prosecution of Ducut, Napoles, five former representatives—Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon, a former Customs commissioner, of Muntinlupa City, Rodolfo Valencia of Oriental Mindoro province, Marc Douglas Cagas IV of Davao del Sur province, Arrel Olaño of Davao del Norte province and Arthur Pingoy Jr. of South Cotabato province—and officials of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Technology Resource Center (TRC), National Business Corp. (Nabcor) and representatives of nongovernment organizations (NGOs).
The respondents earlier denied wrongdoing.
Morales issued five separate orders directing the filing of information in the Sandiganbayan against these individuals for violation of Section 3 (e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019), malversation (Article 217, Revised Penal Code) and direct bribery.
Ducut and the lawmakers represent the second batch of individuals who have been charged in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam since the Inquirer came out in 2013 with a groundbreaking exposé on how Napoles and lawmakers had pilfered public money.
Morales also directed that copies of the resolutions and orders in the five cases be forwarded to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for immediate action on possible violations of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
She denied the appeal of the six former lawmakers not to charge them in the pork barrel scam. She said “the indictment against them stands” and that “respondents are probably guilty.”
Morales dismissed their separate motions for reconsideration as a “mere rehash of the arguments previously raised by them and already passed upon by this office.”
“The sworn statements of witnesses, disbursement vouchers, endorsed/encashed checks, MOAs with NGOs, written requests, liquidation reports and other evidence on record indubitably indicate that respondents conspired with one another to repeatedly raid the public treasury,” she said.
The cases stemmed from the complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation and private complainant Levito Baligod. Former Representatives Salacnib Baterina of Ilocos Sur province and Douglas Cagas of Davao del Sur were among those named in the original complaints but were not included among those ordered charged on Thursday.
Despite mounting evidence of her involvement in the racket as early as three years ago, Ducut was allowed to serve her full seven-year term as ERC chief by President Aquino. Her term ended last July.
Based on the cases against her, Ducut had been acting as Napoles’ pork barrel agent even before she became ERC chair.
Ducut was appointed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the plum post in 2008, reportedly in exchange for not running for reelection in her district in Pampanga in 2007.
Whistle-blower Benhur Luy claimed that Ducut first met Napoles in 2004 and they became instant friends and partners with Ducut bringing the most pork barrel projects to Napoles. Ducut reportedly received at least 5 percent in commission for her efforts.
According to the Ombudsman, Ducut acted as the agent for Biazon who endorsed
P3 million of his pork barrel funds to an NGO, Philippine Social Foundation Inc. (PSFI) operated by Napoles and her girl Friday, Evelyn de Leon, in 2007.
Ducut was accused of handing over P1.95 million as “rebates” to Biazon from Napoles. Biazon’s pork project coursed through the TRC turned out to be bogus.
The charge sheet also showed:
Ducut was the broker of Cagas who endorsed P11 million of his PDAF from 2007 to 2009 to two Napoles NGOs—Progress and Development Foundation Inc. (POPDFI) and Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (SDPFFI)—with Nabcor and TRC as implementing agencies for the distribution of sprayers, seeds and fertilizers. Ducut handed P5.5 million in kickbacks to Cagas mostly in Napoles’ JLN Office at Discovery Suites Ortigas.
Ducut served as the middleman for Pingoy who transferred a total of P20.91 million in pork funds to Napoles NGOs, Philippine Social Development Foundation, Inc. (PSDFI) and SDPFFI. Napoles gave P7.05 million in total kickbacks to Pingoy through Ducut.
Napoles herself handed the kickbacks of Olaño, who received P3.175 million from P7.97 million worth of PDAF projects he endorsed. Valencia received his kickbacks worth P2.4 million from the P7 million worth of pork projects he endorsed through Celia Cuasay.
Other personalities charged in the second batch of PDAF cases were Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, former TRC officials Dennis Cunanan and Antonio Ortiz, Nabcor’s Allan Javellana, Victor Roman Cacal, Jesus Castillo, Margarita Guadinez, Ireneo Pirater, Jocelyn Deiparine, John Raymond De Asis and Noel Macha. TVJ
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