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No more PDAF cases to be filed – De Lima

Pork barrel scam whistle-blower Benhur Luy is seen at the Sandiganbayan yesterday for the bail hearing of alleged mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and the other accused in the anomaly. MICHAEL VARCAS

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) is finished with the investigation and filing of cases in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam that took place in 2007-2009, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said yesterday.

De Lima told the House appropriations committee, chaired by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, that the charges the DOJ filed last week against nine respondents were the third and last batch of PDAF cases.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Joel Villanueva were among the respondents in the last batch.

“There is nothing on the table at the moment with respect to the PDAF cases arising out of the Commission on Audit (COA) special report covering the years 2007, 2008 and 2009 and involving non-government organizations (NGOs) linked to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles,” De Lima said.

She said there is only one remaining inquiry the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is looking into and it involves a non-Napoles NGO.

She indicated that the NBI is not sure if it could gather enough evidence to support a complaint against the NGO, which she did not identify.

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“It’s only a possible case,” she said.

The DOJ chief was responding to questions raised by Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon, who said there were subsequent COA reports linking more senators and members of the House of Representatives to the alleged misuse of hundreds of millions in PDAF funds.

The PDAF was the congressional pork barrel before the Supreme Court scrapped it in November 2013.

De Lima said it is the Office of the Ombudsman that is looking into the COA reports from 2010 onwards.

Unless the ombudsman asks the DOJ to help, “we’re done with the PDAF cases and Napoles NGOs,” she said.

The COA annual audit reports between 2010 and 2013 have linked at least four more senators and scores of House members to the misuse of the PDAF.

The reports also show that NGOs shifted to towns in the provinces like Pilar and Dinalupihan in Bataan, San Antonio in Nueva Ecija and Javier in Leyte as conduits of pork barrel funds after several government corporations became controversial.

The state firms that reportedly served as PDAF conduits in 2007-2009 included National Agri-Business Corp., which is under the Department of Agriculture; National Livelihood Development Corp., a subsidiary of Land Bank of the Philippines; Technology and Livelihood Resource Center, which is attached to the Department of Science and Technology; and Zamboanga del Sur University Real Estate Corp.

Another state firm, Philippine Forest Corp., which is under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, was allegedly used as pork barrel fund conduit between 2010 and 2013.

Napoles, Sens. Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr., the senators’ senior aides and officers of the state firms are facing plunder and graft charges in connection with the PDAF scam uncovered by the COA in 2007-2009.

Not resigning

Villanueva said he would neither take a leave of absence nor resign from his office despite charges of graft, malversation of public funds and direct bribery that were filed against him for his alleged involvement in the pork barrel fund scam.

Villanueva, however, said he could resign – but for another reason. – With Eva Visperas

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