Whistle-blower’s husband shot dead
The National Bureau of Investigation is looking into the possibility that the ambush slaying of a whistle-blower’s husband, Chief Insp. Romeo Ricalde, in 2013 may be linked to another pork barrel scam brought to the attention of the Ombudsman on Wednesday.
Bernadette Ricalde, a former staff member of San Jose del Monte Rep. Arturo Robes, said in an interview at the Inquirer office that her husband was killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen on Oct. 26, 2013.
She said her murdered husband had a recording of his conversation with Florida Robes, the Bulacan congressman’s wife, about the transactions of WorkPhil and Sagip-Buhay People Support Foundations, two nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that allegedly were involved in the diversion of the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to National Agribusiness Corp.
The NBI started its investigation on the P500-million PDAF scam in September 2013, a month before the police official was killed.
Ricalde said that at the time of her husband’s death, she had not connected it with the NGOs’ alleged illegal activities, thinking it could be related to his work as policeman.
“I only suspected that it could be connected when I found the recording of his conversation with Mrs. Robes in his cell phone after he was killed and this was pointed out to me by an NBI agent who is investigating the scam and who also has a copy of the recording,” Ricalde told the Inquirer.
On Wednesday, lawyer Levito Baligod filed in the Office of the Ombudsman affidavits by four whistle-blowers, including that executed by Ricalde, alleging that PDAF allocations worth a total of P500 million of 20 former and current lawmakers were diverted to 15 questionable NGOs, including WorkPhil and Sagip-Buhay.
Ricalde said she wanted to know the real motive behind the killing of her husband, which remains unsolved.
“I was told by the NBI that they would look into the death of my husband and if it is connected with the NGO’s illegal activities or his job as a policeman,” she said.
“The victim was able to record his conversation with the wife of Congressman Robes, discussing the activities of bogus organizations being used by two operators,” Baligod told the Inquirer. He said he would request the appropriate government agency to look into Romeo’s murder.
In her sworn statement submitted by Baligod to the Ombudsman on Wednesday, Ricalde stated that WorkPhil and Sagip-Buhay received approximately P200 million in pork barrel funds from several members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
She added that apart from the pork barrel, the Robes-controlled organizations also received P10 million in allocations from the Arroyo administration’s presidential social funds on Feb. 11, 2010.
However, she said the money was deposited in the personal account of one of Robes’ employees, Michelle Imperial.
“It was in the account of Michelle but all withdrawal slips against the accounts bear the initial of Mrs. Robes,” Ricalde said.
She said that all these documents were submitted to the NBI antifraud division and photocopies were submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Ricalde said that the two organizations were founded and registered in 2008 on the orders of Robes’ wife.
“All the incorporators of WorkPhil are employees of Congressman Robes and his wife, while the incorporators of Sagip Buhay were a mix of employees of Mrs. Robes and Evelyn Miranda,” Ricalde said. Miranda is one of the alleged 15 operators of the dubious NGOs.
According to the Quezon City Police District Criminal Investigation Unit head, Supt. Rodel Marcelo, no suspect had been arrested in the death of Romeo, the chief of the Northern Police District antidrug division.
“The case remains open,” Marcelo said in a telephone interview. “The gunmen with long firearms did not even stop and go down from their motorcyles when they fired at the victim’s car,” he said.
The police official also said that the policeman was shot by professional gunmen seen in action movies.
He added that the widow had stated that her husband had received death threats prior to the ambush.
The 26-minute recorded conversation purportedly between Florida Robes and the police inspector centered around WorkPhil and Sagip-Buhay, and Miranda allegedly using the organizations to transact business with several congressmen and a senator, Ricalde said.
In the conversation, a woman believed to be Florida Robes was instructing Romeo to tell his wife to issue an affidavit that Robes had nothing to do with the two NGOs and point to Miranda as the real owner.
To back up her allegations, Ricalde provided the Inquirer photocopies of bank certifications, bank transactions, cash disbursement reports, withdrawal and deposit slips, records from the Security and Exchange Commission, receipts and checks.
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