Napoles gets another pork scam conviction
The Sandiganbayan has convicted businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and former Davao del Norte Rep. Arrel Olaño of misuse in 2007 of the latter’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or “pork barrel,” worth P7.7 million.
In a 57-page decision on Friday, the antigraft court’s Second Division also found the other accused guilty of the same charges. They are Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana, former group manager of the now defunct Technology Resource Center (TRC); Mylene Encarnacion of the Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc. (Cared); and Evelyn de Leon of the Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI).
Napoles, Olaño, Lacsamana and Encarnacion were convicted of graft and malversation on three counts each for these offenses, while De Leon was convicted of the same offenses on one count each.
For each count of graft, they were sentenced to six to 10 years of imprisonment.
Furthermore, all the accused were sentenced to additional prison terms ranging from a period of six to 12 years to a period of 10 to 16 years for each count of their malversation convictions.
All convicted are banned for life from holding public office. They were also ordered to indemnify the government a total of P7.7 million, equivalent to the funds they misused.
On top of the graft and malversation convictions, Olaño was also found guilty of direct bribery for receiving P3.1 million from Napoles.
The Second Division said the former lawmaker “exercised control” over the release of his PDAF to Cared and PSDFI, two supposed nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) headed by Napoles which turned out to be bogus entities.
“He (Olaño) failed to justify the reason why he endorsed said NGOs which was clearly established by the evidence as fake, unqualified and/or unaccredited,” the court said.
It further noted an earlier testimony by Benhur Luy that the pork barrel funds were diverted to Napoles, after “the selection and endorsement [by some] lawmakers of Napoles’ NGOs to be the project implementer[s] of [Olaño’s] PDAF.”
Luy, a second cousin of Napoles and her finance officer, became the whistleblower of the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam first exposed by the Inquirer in 2013.
The court also cited a special audit which found the PDAF-financed transactions “irregular and illegal.”
The Second Division also emphasized that Olaño’s endorsement became the “springboard” for TRC to be able to process the disbursement vouchers.
“[T]hrough the … willful disregard [by the accused] of applicable laws, they allowed fake NGOs to get hold of public funds,” the court said.
Based on its charge sheet filed in 2016, the Office of the Ombudsman said Olaño’s PDAF amounted to more than P7 million and was funneled through PSDFI and Cared, using TRC as the “implementing agency” for livelihood projects.
TRC released P1.9 million to Cared and P5.8 million was disbursed to PSDFI.
The funds were supposedly intended for livelihood projects, financial assistance, farm implements and training in barangays in the first district of Davao del Norte. Investigators later found that the projects did not exist.
Napoles is facing multiple charges of graft, malversation and plunder over the pork barrel scam, with a number of these cases already resolved by the Sandiganbayan while others are still pending before the antigraft court.
In May, Napoles was cleared of 16 counts of graft in connection with the alleged misuse of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s PDAF. But she was also convicted that month of graft and malversation, each on two counts, involving the misuse of the pork barrel funds of former Davao del Sur Rep. Douglas Cagas.
Napoles is detained at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City after she was convicted of plunder in 2019 for the misuse of P224.5 million of Revilla’s pork barrel funds.
The latest ruling against her was penned by Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona. Associate Justices Oscar Herrera Jr., chair of the Second Division, and Arthur Malabaguio concurred.