MALAMPAYA FUND SCAM: GMA, 23 OTHERS CHARGED / DRILON FACE ANOTHER RAP FOR OMBUDSMAN
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales hold the plunder complaint filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Janet Lim-Napoles and others in connection with the alleged misuse of P900 million in royalties from the Malampaya gas fund. BOY SANTOS MANILA, Philippines
MANILA, OCTOBER 7, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Michael Punongbayan - The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed plunder charges yesterday at the Office of the Ombudsman against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and 23 others, including former officials of her administration and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, for their alleged involvement in the P900-million Malampaya fund scam.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima personally handed over the criminal complaint to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, whose graft investigators would now evaluate and investigate the accusations to determine if criminal cases should indeed be filed at the Sandiganbayan.
Among those charged with Arroyo were former executive secretary Eduardo Ermita, former Department of Agrarian Reform secretary Nasser Pangandaman, former DAR undersecretary Narciso Nieto, former DAR finance and management office director Teresita Panlilio who is now head of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) secretariat under the Aquino government, former Department of Budget and Management secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., DBM undersecretary Mario Relampagos, Candaba Mayor Rene Maglangue, and DAR officers and employees identified as Angelita Cacananta, Nilda Baui, Dominador Sison Jr., and Ronald J. Venancio.
Also named respondents to the case were 10 presidents and employees of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) formed by Napoles, including her brother Ronald Francisco Lim and Ruby Tuason, former social secretary of former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.
De Lima, in a press briefing after the filing of the plunder charges, said Arroyo and Ermita’s involvement in the case stemmed from the issuance of Executive Order 848 on Oct. 13, 2009, “which invalidly liberalized the exploitation of the Malampaya fund for purposes not contemplated by existing laws.”
Malampaya is a natural gas field located in the West Philippine Sea, off northwest Palawan. The project is spearheaded by the Department of Energy and operated by Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX), with joint-venture partners Chevron Malampaya LLC and PNOC Exploration Corp.
Natural gas from Malampaya currently feeds three power plants with a combined capacity of 2,700 megawatts to the Luzon grid.
De Lima explained that Andaya’s request for authorization for use and access to the money dated Oct. 8, 2009 actually preceded the existence of the legal basis for making such request in the first place.
“The lack of specificity in Arroyo’s and Ermita’s identification of the authorized purpose by which DBM can access the (Malampaya fund) resulted in the almost discretionary, if not arbitrary, granting of implementing agency requests for millions of pesos in funds without the submission of any agency work or development plan showing that the funds will actually be used for the purpose authorized by the president,” De Lima said.
“This leniency of control displayed by the former president in the use of and access to an essentially residential discretionary fund made possible the plunder of such fund, either intentionally or through gross inexcusable negligence,” she noted.
While Arroyo and Ermita were not specifically accused of pocketing specific amounts of money if any, De Lima said the issuance of EO 848 eventually led to the plunder of P900 million worth of royalties from Malampaya, which was supposed to have been used for victims of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.
Citing the testimonies of whistle-blowers, the affidavits of 97 mayors whose signatures were all forged, and documents gathered by the NBI, she announced that probers came up with a detailed picture of the modus operandi used by Napoles in order to pocket government money after distributing kickbacks to public officials involved.
De Lima confirmed that Napoles got wind that Malampaya funds would be released as early as July 2009, which prompted her to order her employees at the JLN Corp. to manufacture fake requests, fake memoranda of agreement, and fake liquidation reports after receiving the money.
“In sum, the DAR Malampaya fund projects intended to rehabilitate farmer-beneficiary victims of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng were all ghost projects with no delivery whatsoever,” she said.
The NBI investigation uncovered how four public officials allegedly received specific amounts in commissions amounting to a total of more than P337.7 million.
Pangandaman allegedly received P75 million, Panlilio P14 million, Nieto P6 million, and Tuason, whom the DOJ believes is an agent for a still unidentified principal, P242.7 million, all delivered either through cash or through bank transactions.
“The rest of the DBM and DAR officials participated and conspired in this scheme by facilitating the irregular release of the P900-million Malampaya fund to DAR and the processing of the check payments to Napoles NGOs, despite the fact that all documents pertaining to the award of said projects to the Napoles NGOs were all manufactured and faked and the projects were all ghost projects with zero delivery.”
Because of such conspiracy, De Lima said those involved pocketed the entire amount released for victims of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, which constitute misuse if not misappropriation and malversation of public funds resulting in the accumulation of ill-gotten wealth.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the DBM would cooperate fully with the investigation, especially with respect to the present inquiry on the use of Malampaya funds and PDAF.
“However, we cannot comment on Undersecretary Relampagos’ alleged involvement in this matter. We will also wait until the investigation has concluded before we proceed with the appropriate course of action,” he said.
GMA: Release of funds legal
The camp of former President Arroyo said the release of Malampaya funds, totaling some P20 billion during her term, was authorized under the law.
Lawyer Raul Lambino, chief of staff of Arroyo, said the disbursements from the government’s share on the revenues from the natural gas project at the Malampaya fields “were authorized pursuant to the policies and purposes as mandated by the provisions of Presidential Decree 910.”
He however said the actions of officials after Arroyo authorized the fund releases “was another matter.”
Arroyo is currently detained at the Veterans’ Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) on a previous plunder charge involving funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
She has been filing petitions for bail owing to what her lawyers said were the weak cases filed against her. The new charge however could ensure her continued detention at the VMMC in the event the Sandiganbayan would decide favorably on her bail plea.
Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., who was then budget chief, lamented what he called the “file now, investigate later,” of the Department of Justice (DOJ) as he had repeatedly offered to help in the investigation but they were rejected.
“I wasn’t allowed to confront my accusers or respond to the charges against me. I have volunteered myself to any investigation. But not even a text was sent to me as an invitation. I was open for a grilling. Ang linya ko nga (my line was), grill me,” Andaya said.
“My name was never included in the affidavits executed by the whistleblowers. In the first case filed on behalf of the whistleblowers, which has 500,000 pages, not one letter of my name was mentioned,” he said.
He said the release of Malampaya funds was covered by an executive order, based on what has been agreed or approved in the Cabinet meeting, and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only releases funds after reviewing all the documents and determine the need or the beneficiaries—in this case, victims of Ondoy and Pepeng.
“My job description then was to release money for national funding requirements—a job that did not come with an early warning device that would alert me about a possible hijacking or pilfering when the funds are on its way to the beneficiaries,” Andaya said.
“I didn’t expect there were people waiting at the end (of the transaction) to take advantage of the tragedy and profit from it,” Andaya said.
He said not every request for fund release should be treated with criminal suspicion.
“In this case, who would have thought that funds for typhoon victims will find its way into the pockets or bathtubs of others?” he said, referring to testimonies of whistleblowers that businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, tagged as the brains of the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam, stored her cash in her bathtub before they were counted.
He said what was worrisome is that case is setting a precedent wherein all those involved in the ministerial release of the funds, including DBM officials, should be from now on become automatic co-accused in every graft cases to be filed in the country.
“If one district engineer buys one pail of fake asphalt or one school principal hijacks money intended for books or a mayor steals the funds for medicines, he or she would be charged alongside with the automatic co-accused from the DBM?” he said.
Eduardo Ermita could not be reached for comment yesterday by The STAR but he earlier issued a statement disputing reports of his involvement in the alleged plunder of the Malampaya fund.
He said he has a clear conscience and expressed hopes that “once again, unproven innuendoes shall be dispelled by the bright light of actual facts and rational discourse.”
“Because those funds were intended for the amelioration and upliftment of our less fortunate countrymen, I would be among the first to condemn any irregularities that may be proven to have taken place in the disbursement of those funds,” he said.
He said it was the Department of Agrarian Reform that was the implementor of the programs for communities affected by the storms.
Act of faith and courage
De Lima described the completion of the plunder case against those involved in the Malampaya fund scam as another act of faith and courage.
“Here we are again, another act of faith and courage,” De Lima said after a Mass held for the whistle-blowers and the investigators.
The NBI had earlier filed a separate plunder case against Napoles for the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam that involved the bogus NGOs that she organized and were the conduits of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of some lawmakers that funded ghost projects.
Also charged with Napoles were Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla Jr.
Napoles is currently detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, for a separate serious illegal detention case.
De Lima also expressed “deep appreciation” for those who worked hard to finish the case.
“First of all to the NBI. For their hardwork. Alam ko lahat ng sakripisyo nyo at talagang grabe ang trabaho nyo (I know all your sacrifices and how difficult your work is) every time we’re about to file cases of this sort. And syempre po ang ating mga whistle-blowers and attorney Levi Baligod and the other volunteer lawyers,” she said.
“Let us all keep the faith," De Lima added.
The three-month long investigation into the case has resulted in the accumulation of about one million pages of documentary evidence.
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) yesterday said that they would not automatically include the names of the accused in their Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order (ILBO), despite the filing of plunder charges against the respondents in the Malampaya fund scam.
BI spokesperson Ma. Angelica Pedro said that they would wait for the justice secretary to give them an order before the names of the respondents are included in the ILBO.
She added that the justice department is the only authorized entity to place a person in the ILBO. With Aie Balagtas See, Evelyn Macairan, Delon Porcalla, Juancho Mahusay
FROM THE PHILSTAR
Drilon faces another complaint before Ombudsman By Jennifer Rendon, Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 6, 2013 - 12:00am 8 463 googleplus0 1
MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Franklin Drilon (photo) is facing another complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Drilon was charged with plunder, dishonesty, malversation of public funds and grave misconduct by journalist Manuel Mejorada on Friday.
Former congressman Augusto Syjuco Jr. had earlier filed separate cases of plunder against the Senate leader for allegedly pocketing P60.5 million from the anomalous purchase of a 16.2-hectare property in Iloilo seven years ago and for allegedly receiving kickbacks from the 1992 construction of the Iloilo Justice Hall wherein substandard materials and equipment were used to build a structurally weak and dangerous building.
Drilon, however, expressed confidence that the ombudsman will dismiss the charges filed against him by Syjuco and Mejorada.
Mejorada was Drilon’s former consultant.
“This is the second nuisance case filed against me by my former consultant whom I fired after I learned that he was illegally using my Twitter account to hit and besmirch the reputation of the mayor of Iloilo City when the latter refused to appoint him as city administrator,” the senator said.
“I deny all the allegations. There is no truth to them. They manipulated the facts,” he added.
In accusing Drilon of plunder, Mejorada alleged that the senator has knowledge in the overpriced purchase of land for a relocation site in Iloilo City using his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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