Ombudsman OKs raps vs Corona prosecutor over P4.8-M PDAF misuse
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the indictment of former Iloilo 5th Dist. Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., an ally of former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, for allegedly misusing P4.8 million in pork barrel funds on “ghost projects” in 2008.
The lawmaker himself was accused of making it appear the projects were implemented by signing fictitious lists of beneficiaries from his districts—an allegation he denied by claiming his own signature was forged too.
Tupas, a Liberal Party stalwart who led the prosecution of Chief Justice Renato Corona in his impeachment trial over corruption allegations, is set to face two counts of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, one count of malversation, and one count of the complex crime of malversation through falsification.
Morales found probable cause to pursue charges against Tupas because the alleged misuse of the funds was made possible by his selection of Kabuhayan at Kalusugang Alay sa Masa Foundation, Inc. (KKAMFI) as the partner non-government organization for the projects.
“To be able to repeatedly release substantial funds from the PDAF, access thereto must be made available, and this was made possible by Tupas, Jr. who directly chose and endorsed his own NGO to implement his PDAF-related projects,” her resolution stated.
Tupas allegedly helped fabricate the supporting documents together with the officials of the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor), which was tapped as the implementing agency of his agricultural projects through Tupas’ May 15, 2008 letter to the Department of Agriculture.
The Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations were meant to buy hand tractors, water pumps and grafted fruit seedlings.
However, field investigators said the mayors of the municipalities of Ajuy, Batad, Estancia, Lemery, San Rafael and Sara in eastern Iloilo province denied receiving the farm implements. They found that the liquidation documents for the projects were “all fabricated.”
“This Office is convinced that they conspired with one another in this nefarious scheme to misappropriate public funds drawn from Tupas Jr.’s PDAF,” said the Ombudsman.
Besides Tupas, other respondents include Nabcor officials Alan Javellana, Rhodora Mendoza, Romulo Relevo and Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, as well as KKAMFI project coordinator Marilou Antonio.
In his text message to reporters, Tupas said he will ask his lawyers to appeal the Ombudsman’s resolution.
Tupas said he was “very surprised” by his looming indictment because he was the one who informed the Commission on Audit and other concerned government agencies that “spurious documents allegedly containing my signature were being used to facilitate the release of government funds.”
He claimed that he himself asked the concerned agencies to withhold the release of the funds, and some of it was even returned to the national treasury because of his complaint.
“I also wrote the Ombudsman informing the office of our discovery of spurious documents that were used to facilitate the release of fund,” Tupas said. “I hope the Ombudsman will see the light.” JE/rga
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.