‘Local execs corroborate whistleblowers’ claims on Revilla projects’
Pangasinan Vice-Governor Jose Ferdinand Calimlim and a few other incumbent officials have backed up the Office of the Ombudsman’s claim that their municipalities never received the benefits of the projects supposedly funded by former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s pork barrel funds.
During the fourth hearing in Revilla’s plunder trial at the Sandiganbayan First Division, Office of the Special Prosecutor Director Joefferson Toribio defended the presentation of government officials to confirm the said allegation.
This was despite the repeated objection of Revilla’s lawyer, Estelito Mendoza, who insisted that the issue of the non-implementation of the Priority Development Assistance Fund projects was irrelevant to the senator’s plunder case, since it was suspected mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles who allegedly pocketed the allocations.
At one point, Mendoza said all the interviews conducted by the Ombudsman field investigators were “invalid” for being based on a “wrong premise” that the projects were supposed to be received from Revilla.
“These interviews were derogatory to Senator Revilla. All of these interviews are void,” he said.
Toribio later responded to Mendoza’s continuing objection: “The testimony of Benhur Luy and the other whistleblowers perfectly jibe with what we are presenting now.”
“They [local officials] are corroborating the testimonies of the whistleblowers,” he said.
Calimlim was the mayor of Mapandan town when his name and purported signature appeared in the delivery and acceptance report for a livelihood project funded by Revilla’s Priority Development Assistance Fund.
“I know my own signature. I know this is not mine,” he said when he was shown one of the documents meant to show that the projects were carried out.
Tumauini, Isabela, Mayor Arnold Bautista and Piat, Cagayan, Vice-Mayor Leonel Guzman, a former mayor, also disowned their supposed signatures.
Still, Mendoza described the officials’ testimonies as “mere hearsay” because they had to confirm the absence of the projects through certifications they requested from their subordinates in the municipal office.
During last week’s hearing, four other prosecution witnesses have already testified that their municipalities did not benefit from Revilla’s PDAF-funded projects.
The witnesses were: Quirino Vice-Governor May Calaunan; Atimonan, Quezon registration officer Jeanien Cervantes; and Barangay Duhat kagawad (councilor) Efren Notorio and purported farmer-beneficiary Sofronio Jimenez of Barangay Ilosong, both of Plaridel, Quezon.
Revilla was detained on June 20, 2014, after the Ombudsman formally charged him with the nonbailable offense of plunder before the Sandiganbayan.
He was accused of receiving P224.5 million in kickbacks in exchange for endorsing dubious foundations linked to Janet Lim-Napoles as project partners for his PDAF-funded projects.
Revilla’s plunder case was the first of the five such cases to move to the trial stage on June 22, although he missed that hearing because he was hospitalized at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City after being diagnosed with hypertension, dyslipidemia and hyperuricemia (excess lipid and uric acid in the blood).
The other plunder cases were filed against former Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada (P183.8 million) and Juan Ponce Enrile (P172.8 million), as well as former Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives party-list Rep. Edgar Valdez (P95 million) and Masbate 3rd Dist. Rep. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete (P108.4 million). JE
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