Napoles, Jaraula guilty in pork barrel scam
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan on Friday convicted Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, former Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Constantino Jaraula and several former government employees of graft and malversation of public funds amounting to P28 million.
After a five-year trial, the antigraft court handed down its second conviction related to the pork barrel scam on Napoles, who was found guilty of plunder in 2018 in a case where her coaccused Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. was acquitted.
The Sandiganbayan’s First Division cleared several Department of Budget and Management (DBM) officials of the charges that stemmed from the diversion of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the now defunct pork barrel fund for lawmakers, to bogus nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
The court ruling said that the prosecution “convincingly and satisfactorily established that [Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc., or Cared] was used to facilitate the subject sham transactions.”
According to the Ombudsman’s charges, Jaraula received at least P20.8 million in kickbacks, citing the ledger of rebates of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy, a former employee of Napoles.
In June 2015, Jaraula pleaded not guilty to malversation, graft and direct bribery charges.
Funneled through NGO
The court said Jaraula and Napoles conspired to funnel the money from PDAF to Cared, an NGO she controlled. Several employees of the defunct state-run Technology Resource Center (TRC) had accredited the NGO “despite full knowledge of its ineligibility,” the court said.
“All these accused had an individual role to play which, in the grand scheme of things, was geared toward the common goal of benefiting a bogus NGO, to the prejudice of public coffers,” according to the decision authored by Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona.
Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Efren dela Cruz, who also serves as the First Division chair, concurred.
In its 103-page decision, the antigraft court found Napoles, Jaraula and former TRC employees Ma. Rosalinda Masongsong Lacsamana, Belina Concepcion and Cared president Mylene Encarnacion guilty of three counts of graft and three counts of malversation.
For the graft conviction, they were sentenced to serve six years and one month up to 10 years in prison for each count. They were also barred from holding public office.
The court ordered them to return P28 million to the government—the amount which was illegally disbursed to the bogus NGO.
For the misuse of public funds, Napoles, Jaraula and the three others were sentenced to serve a prison term of 12 years and one day to 18 years, eight months and one day for each count. They were also ordered to pay another P28 million, equal to the amount funneled to Cared.
Jaraula was also found guilty of three counts of direct bribery for accepting P2 million grease money from Napoles. He was sentenced to imprisonment of up to nine years, four months and one day for each count.
The antigraft court also ordered the former lawmaker to pay a P6-million fine, thrice the amount of the kickbacks he received. He also was penalized with “special temporary disqualification.”
DBM officials Rosalinda Salamida Nuñez, Lalaine Narag Paule and Marilou Dialino Bare were acquitted.
The court said the prosecution “failed to show any act on the part of Bare, Paule and Nuñez which was consciously done in furtherance of the conspiracy” to commit the offenses they were charged with.
Other TRC employees, namely Francisco Figura, Marivic Jover and Maurine Dimaranan, were also cleared of the charges after the prosecution failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The court ordered the release of the bonds posted by Figura, Jover and Dimaranan, and recalled the hold departure order against them.
Napoles’ 2018 conviction was affirmed in April 2019. She was also convicted of a separate charge of illegal detention for holding Luy, but was later acquitted by the Court of Appeals.
For her plunder conviction, she is serving a prison term of up to 40 years at the Correctional Institution for Women.
The Inquirer broke the story on the P10-billion pork barrel scam in July 2013, triggering a government-wide investigation.
Using NGOs, the scheme involved the channeling of the lawmakers’ PDAF into ghost projects and bogus foundations over a 10-year period.
About 100 former lawmakers and government officials have been charged with plunder and graft for the illegal use of state funds.
In September 2013, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice filed the first set of charges in the scam against 38 people, including Napoles, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Revilla.
Revilla was acquitted of plunder in 2018 but faces separate charges of graft.
Out on bail
Enrile and Estrada, both out on bail, are awaiting the court’s decision.
Also charged were Jaraula and former Representatives Rizalina Seachon-Lañete of Masbate, Rodolfo Plaza of Agusan del Sur and Edgar Valdez of the party list group Apec (Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives). Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa, who died in 2019, also was charged, along with several senior staffers of the senators and congressmen, department heads and minor state officials.
In October 2014, the Ombudsman said it found probable cause to separately charge Jaraula, Lañete, Dangwa and Plaza for allegedly misusing their PDAF that was worth a total of P244.29 million. —WITH INQUIRER RESEARCH
SOURCE: INQUIRER ARCHIVES
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.