10 more ex-lawmakers in pork barrel scam
The second set of charges in connection with the theft of public funds through the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), pork barrel that the Supreme Court recently ruled as unconstitutional, is set to be filed on Wednesday against at least 10 lawmakers, according to lawyers of whistle-blowers in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Those recommended to be charged with malversation by the National Bureau of Investigation included former Representatives Arthur Pingoy of South Cotabato, Maite Defensor of Quezon City, Douglas Cagas of Davao del Sur and Isidoro Real of Zamboanga del Sur, according to a list of names lawyer Levito Baligod provided the Inquirer.
Six lawmakers were not included in the case because they are now dead.
“The charges against the lawmakers would be malversation and not plunder because the government funds involved did not reach the threshold for plunder of P50 million,” Baligod told the Inquirer in an interview.
Malversation is a bailable offense unlike plunder, which is nonbailable and is punishable with life imprisonment.
The second set of lawmakers will also be charged with misuse of the PDAF, Baligod said.
The PDAF is a lump-sum fund that financed the pet projects of senators and members of the House of Representatives. Before the Supreme Court declared the PDAF unconstitutional, a senator was allotted P200 million and a member of the House P70 million every year.
Lourdes Benipayo, another lawyer of the witnesses to the alleged pork barrel scam, said the basis of the charges was the “series of transactions entered [into] by the lawmakers and the dummy nongovernment organizations allegedly controlled by JLN CEO Janet Napoles.”
On Sept. 16, the NBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed plunder and other charges in the Office of the Ombudsman against 38 people including Napoles, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., former Representatives Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, Edgar Valdez, Rodolfo Plaza, Samuel Dangwa and Constantino Jaraula and their senior staff, department heads and other agency officials for the misuse of the PDAF.
On Oct. 3, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, three of her Cabinet secretaries and 20 others were also charged with plunder in connection with the alleged theft of P900 million from the Malampaya gas fund meant for storm victims in 2009.
Among those charged in the Malampaya case were alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Napoles, her brother Reynald Lim, nephew John Lim and longtime assistant Evelyn de Leon.
Baligod said that like the first set of PDAF cases, the second set would have the NBI and DOJ use as evidence the testimonies and documents submitted by the whistle-blowers, former employees of Napoles led by principal witness Benhur Luy.
The documents from the Commission on Audit (COA) would also form part of the evidence. A COA special audit of the allocation and use of the PDAF from 2007 to 2009 found that a total of P6.15 billion was coursed through 82 NGOs, including eight Napoles NGOs.
“Just like before, the basis for the charges would be the documentary and testimonial evidence of the witnesses,” Baligod said.
The first set of people was charged with allegedly diverting P10 billion in PDAF funds to dummy aid organizations and ghost projects to obtain kickbacks.
Others on the charge sheet were Jessica Lucila Reyes, Enrile’s former chief of staff; Richard Cambe, Revilla’s senior staff member; Ruby Tuason, Enrile and Estrada’s liaison officer; Pauline Labayen, Estrada’s former appointments secretary; Jose Sumalpong, Lanete’s chief of staff; Jeanette de la Cruz, Lanete’s district staff member; Erwin Dangwa, former congressman Dangwa’s chief of staff; and Carlos Lozada, Dangwa’s staff member.
The former heads of government corporations charged were Alan Javellana, former president of National Agribusiness Corp.; Gondelina Amata, president of National Livelihood Development Corp.; Antonio Ortiz, former director general of Technology Resource Center (TRC); Dennis Cunanan, former deputy director general and now director general of TRC; and Salvador Salacup, former head of ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp.
An Inquirer series on the P10-billion pork barrel starting July triggered widespread calls for the scrapping of the pork barrel and the filing of cases against the PDAF that led to the Supreme Court ruling on Nov. 19 that the lump-sum fund was unconstitutional.
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