Ex-Albay solon insists no control over misused PDAF
Facing graft and malversation charges for the alleged misuse of his pork barrel fund, former Albay Rep. Reno Lim has told the Sandiganbayan that he had no control over his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
In his reply to the prosecution’s comment filed before the anti-graft court’s Second Division, Lim countered the Office of the Special Prosecutor’s claim that he was accountable for the P30 million in PDAF that was allegedly misused.
The prosecution said Lim has effective control over the pork barrel fund because he wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2007 for the release of the second and third tranches of his PDAF for livelihood projects implemented by the Technology Resource Center (TRC).
But Lim said the two letters were actually protocol letters, part of the standard operating procedure which the Speaker has no choice but to follow.
“Protocol letters do not carry the weight of an order which the Speaker of the House had no discretion but must simply comply. These said letters were in the nature of a request, and the Speaker of the House had a complete discretion to act on it,” Lim said in his motion through his lawyers.
“The point is, accused Lim, or any congressman for that matter, had no effective control on his PDAF allocation,” he added.
Lim claimed it was the implementing agency TRC, and not him, which had effective control over the PDAF after the latter was endorsed by the Speaker to the Department of Budget and Management.
The Speaker then was Jose De Venecia.
Lim urged the Ombudsman prosecutors to take extra caution in filing the charges and accusing him of conspiracy, insisting that he was innocent from the charges.
“The Office of the Ombudsman should understand clearly the transaction involved and the parties’ participation. It is unfair for the accused to be accused of conspiracy in the commission of the crime charged, when in truth and in fact, he is innocent of all the charges,” his motion read.
Lim, along with five Technology Resource Center (TRC) officials, Kaagapay Magpakailanman Foundation Inc. (KMFI) representatives and Carmelita Barredo of C.C. Barredo Publishing House, faces four counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and four counts of malversation.
According to the Ombudsman, Lim in 2007 requested the release of P30 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and chose the TRC as implementing agency with the KMFI as the non-government organization partner.
The PDAF was allotted for the procurement of 8,000 sets of livelihood instructional materials and technology kits.
But the Commission on Audit uncovered that the project was “fictitious or ghost project” because there were no deliveries of livelihood kits.
Ombudsman investigators said that “not one among the constituents of said legislative district received the livelihood technology kit.”
In the 2008 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by Lim, TRC and KMFI representatives, Lim picked KMFI as NGO partner without the benefit of a public bidding.
Lim also approved the payment of P27 million prior to the signing of the MOA.
The COA also uncovered other blatant fund anomalies: lack of track record of KMFI as it was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission only in 2006; the NGO had no legitimate business address with its address being the same as C.C. Barredo; no accreditation process to determine the capacity of KMFI.
Ombudsman said it denied the motion for reconsideration of Lim where he said that he had good faith in entrusting his PDAF to the spurious foundation that implemented his pork barrel fund as ghost projects.
In his MR, Lim said “he is not liable for his PDAF having no hand in its disbursement and having relied in good faith that it will be used for the purpose it was intended.”
The Ombudsman countered that “the evidence [consisting] of sworn statements of the witnesses, the disbursement vouchers, the endorsed/encashed checks, the MOA’s with KMFI, the written requests, liquidation reports, confirmation letters and other evidence on record, indubitably establish that [Lim] connived with the TRC officials in the repeated conversion of his P30 million PDAF.”
“The findings of this Office are also buttressed by the Notices of Disallowance recently issued by the Commission on Audit on 26 October 2015,” the Ombudsman added.
Also charged with Lim were: TRC’s Antonio Ortiz, Dennis Cunanan, Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana, Marivic Jover and Consuelo Lilian Espiritu; and KMFI representatives Carlos Soriano and France Mercado.
The Ombudsman has also found Jover and Espiritu guilty of the administrative offense of grave misconduct and has ordered their dismissal from service. IDL/rga
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