Zambo lawmaker fires chief aide due to alleged links to pork scam operators
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Second District Rep. Lilia Nuño has fired her chief of staff following allegations that the latter had transactions with alleged pork barrel scam operator Janet Lim Napoles.
Nuño said she personally sought the resignation of her chief of staff, Ruth Allen Ruste, after the neophyte lawmaker’s office was dragged into the controversy.
“Ruste is no longer connected with my office. She resigned effective May 1,” Nuño told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Ruste declined to be interviewed by the Inquirer, saying she would like to remain silent on the allegations.
Nuño said she never thought about getting dragged into the controversy as she only hired Ruste “for her expertise.”
Ruste was chief of staff of former second district congressman Erico Basilio Fabian.
“Her background is a big help for me as someone new in the Congress,” Nuño said.
Ruste also served as clerk and chief of staff of the late Rep. Maria Clara Lobregat, who served as the lone district representative from 1987 to 1998.
Lobregat’s son Celso took over as lone district representative from 1998 to 2004.
Now first district representative, Lobregat told the Inquirer that Ruste served briefly as his staff in 2001.
After Lobregat, Ruste served Fabian, who was lone district representative from 2004 to 2007. When the city was divided into two congressional districts, Fabian was elected second district representative in 2007, and served until 2013.
When the PDAF scam broke out, Fabian’s name was repeatedly mentioned as among those who allegedly pocketed public works funds. His name was also included in the list provided by Napoles.
Ruste and whistleblower Benhur Luy are friends, but the former declined to comment on (Tribune) reports that she has gone in hiding after she was implicated in the scam.
In September last year, the Inquirer named Ruste as the conduit to Fabian’s multi-million-peso vermiculture worms project using his Priority Development Assistance Fund, the official name of the pork barrel in the national budget.
City Agriculturist Diosdado Palacat earlier said Ruste, as Fabian’s chief of staff, coordinated with his office for the delivery of vermiculture worms and the implementation of free training under the Agri-Based Livelihood Enhancement on Organic training and Vermiculture Technology in 2012.
Palacat said the 2,000 farmer-trainees went home “with a supot of bulati (bag of worms)” that cost about P700 a kilo at that time.
The farmers were described as beneficiaries of the P17 million that Fabian gave to the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), according to a report by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
The DBM report said that Fabian released the amount to the NCMF in three tranches: P6 million on Sept. 7, 2012; another P5 million on the same day, and P6 million on April 23, 2012.
NCMF director Mehol Sadain confirmed to the Inquirer that the group received the funds from Fabian.
Dennison Abidin, acting regional director of NCMF in this city, said he was unaware that the NCMF got funds from Fabian’s PDAF because “the transaction was between Congressman Fabian and the representatives from our national office.”
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