Ombudsman okays filing of graft charges vs ex-solon
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has approved the filing of charges against former Nueva Ecija Rep. Aurelio Umali over the misuse of his P15 million in pork barrel funds in 2005 in the purchase of fertilizer and farm equipment.
Janet Lim-Napoles, believed to be the mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, was also indicted along with two Department of Agriculture (DA) officers and two employees of Samahan ng mga Manininda ng Prutas sa Gabi Inc.
Morales found probable cause to hale them to the Sandiganbayan for four counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and three counts of malversation, the Ombudsman media bureau said on Wednesday.
The Ombudsman also found Umali and DA regional executive director Renato Manantan guilty of grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
Manantan, reportedly now serving in the Caraga regional office, was ordered dismissed.
The dismissal of Umali, whose third and last term as Nueva Ecija governor ended in June, will be converted to a fine equivalent to his one-year salary.
Umali and Manantan were also perpetually barred from public office and their retirement benefits forfeited.
The indictment arose from Umali’s 2005 endorsement of Napoles-controlled Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (Mamfi) for the purchase of 7,920 bottles of liquid fertilizer worth P12 million and Samahan ng mga Manininda ng Prutas sa Gabi Inc. for the acquisition of 15 irrigation pumps worth P3 million.
The amounts were charged to Umali’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation. The agricultural implements were supposed to benefit his constituents in Cabanatuan City and the towns of Laur, Gabaldon, Bongabon, Santa Rosa and General Mamerto Natividad.
Validation by the Ombudsman, however, showed that “there was no real purchase at all” of the fertilizers, which were bought from another Napoles company, Nutrigrowth Philippines. The purchase of irrigation pumps was also found to be a “ghost project.”
NGOs’ lack of credentials
The Ombudsman also flagged irregularities, such as the nongovernment organizations’ (NGOs) lack of credentials and track record in handling multimillion-peso projects. The NGOs were also selected without going through public bidding.
Morales said the diversion of PDAF and Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization funds was “made possible by Umali who chose Mamfi and Samahan to implement his livelihood projects.”
Besides Umali, Napoles and Manantan, the Ombudsman also indicted DA accountant Narcisa Maningding and Samahan representatives Anita Tansipek and Corazon Bautista.
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