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Escudero: Cunanan bolsters pork case

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 01:20 AM February 24, 2014

Technology Resource Center Director General Dennis Cunanan. PHOTO FROM www.dost.gov.ph

MANILA, Philippines—Dennis Cunanan is crucial to the prosecution of the P10-billion pork barrel scam case because he is the first government official to come forward and corroborate witness testimony in the massive graft, Sen. Francis Escudero said on Sunday.

Escudero observed that Cunanan’s testimony rebutted the denials by senators and representatives of allegations that they endorsed dummy nongovernment organizations (NGOs) as channels for financing phantom projects with their allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

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Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, too, is convinced that Cunanan’s testimony is valuable to the prosecution of the people involved in the pork barrel scam.

In a text message to reporters, De Lima said on Monday that after evaluating Cunanan’s testimony, she was convinced that he was qualified as a state witness.

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De Lima said that like the testimony of Ruby Tuason, Cunanan’s account was “plausible and credible.”

Tuason, who served as social secretary to ousted President Joseph Estrada, now mayor of Manila, admitted that she served as bagman for tens of millions of pesos in kickbacks to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, then chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.

Like Tuason, Cunanan has been accepted as a provisional state witness in the investigation and prosecution of the pork barrel scam.

De Lima said Cunanan’s testimony would be “useful and helpful in the successful prosecution of the most guilty” in the case.

‘Close the case’

If at all, the testimony of Cunanan, now on leave as director general of the Technology Resource Center (TRC) that served as conduit for the funneling of funds to the bogus NGOs, would “close the case,” Escudero said.

Being the first government official to testify in the pork barrel scam, Cunanan is in a “unique position,” he said.

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“This would strengthen, if not close the case,” Escudero said, stressing that Cunanan’s testimony would serve as a rebuttal to the claims of the lawmakers that it was not they but the implementing government agencies that chose the NGOs that carried out the projects financed by the PDAF.

The 42-year-old Cunanan estimated that about P600 million in lawmakers’ allocations from the PDAF was coursed through the TRC when he was the agency’s deputy head.

The funds were funneled to the NGOs by Estrada, Enrile and Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. from their PDAF entitlements from 2007 to early 2009, Cunanan said.

The TRC was used as an implementing agency for PDAF-funded ghost projects proposed by dummy NGOs set up by Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the pork barrel scam.

They knew it

In an interview with the Inquirer, Cunanan said that apart from a 30-page affidavit, he submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman “voluminous” documents that would show the lawmakers knew of the use of Napoles’ bogus NGOs in the disbursement of their PDAF allocations.

Cunanan said he talked with Estrada, Revilla and Reyes as part of the TRC’s verification process.

While he didn’t know how much kickbacks the lawmakers got, Cunanan said, they exerted pressure on him to release their PDAF funds to the preselected organizations.

Cunanan recalled an instance when Revilla ordered him to expedite the release of funds from his PDAF allocation to a Napoles NGO two days before Christmas.

And contrary to the claims of Revilla and others, Cunanan said their signatures on their letters of endorsement submitted to the TRC were genuine.

He said he personally called the lawmakers to verify the authorization for the use of their PDAF allocations.

At the time, the TRC was headed by Antonio Ortiz. Both Ortiz and Cunanan are charged with plunder along with Napoles, the three senators and several former members of the House of Representatives and former government officials over the pork barrel scam.

Cunanan took over from Ortiz in July 2010 and barred NGOs from the TRC.

Not quite?

But a Commission on Audit (COA) report released last October showed that the TRC continued to serve as a conduit for funds from the PDAF and the little-known Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) on Cunanan’s watch.

The COA report said the TRC’s unreleased PDAF and DAP funds increased five times to P106.336 million from only P21 million in 2012.

Speaking through lawyer Levito Baligod, Cunanan said on Sunday the TRC stopped processing PDAF projects when he took over as director general.

As for DAP funds, Cunanan could not say how much the TRC received and which lawmakers and NGOs received the funds.

He said, however, that he was sure all the blacklisted groups, including those owned by Napoles, had no part in the DAP transactions.

He said the undisbursed and unliquidated PDAF funds in the TRC’s account were “remnants” of the PDAF released before 2010.

The COA report said that as of 2012, the TRC had yet to liquidate P18.055 million in pork funds transferred to NGOs between 2008 and 2010.

The report said the amount represented the pork barrel projects of former Representatives Juan Miguel Arroyo (P100,000 for Guagua Municipal Employees Multi-Purpose Cooperative and P1.955 million for Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc.), Carlo Oliver Diasnes (P14 million for Bantayog Kalinga Foundation Inc.), Florencio G. Noel (P1.5 million for Bantayog Kalinga Foundation Inc.) and Robert Barbers (P500,000 for Eastern Samar Development Foundation Inc.).—With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Gil Cabacungan

Originally posted: 7:08 pm | Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

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TAGS: bribery, congressional inquiry, Crime, Dennis Cunanan, Department of Justice, Francis Escudero, Graft and Corruption, Janet Lim Napoles, law and justice, legislative inquiry, Leila de Lima, malversation of public funds, news, Philippine Congress, Plunder, Pork barrel, pork barrel scam, Priority Development Assistance Fund, Ruby Tuason, Senate, state witnesses, Technology Resource Center
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