Palace defends Abad on Sandigan plunder rap
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - August 11, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday took up the cudgels for Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, saying he could not be haled to court for the pork barrel scam that took place years before he became budget chief.

Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. pointed out cases now pending before the Sandiganbayan stemmed from a series of Commission on Audit reports that found anomalies in the utilization of pork barrel funds in 2007 to 2008.

“And this happened before the Aquino administration took over,” Coloma added, in effect absolving Abad from liability following allegations of lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan that the anti-graft court should have included the budget chief in the charges of misuse of pork barrel funds of lawmakers.

Coloma pointed out Abad has no involvement in the pork barrel anomaly since he was not yet appointed to head the Department of Budget and Management.

Abad, for his part, called on Alentajan – who filed a plunder case against him before the ombudsman but which remains pending – to go back to law school.

“In criminal cases, you just don’t file a motion to implead, you file a complaint before the ombudsman first,” the former Batanes congressman and education secretary said.

“For one, the alleged irregularities covered in the complaint took place between 2007 and 2009. I wasn’t even budget secretary then. Neither was I holding public office in that period,” Abad said in a statement.

Abad served as representative of the lone district of Batanes from 1987 to 1989, and again from 1995 to 2004. He was appointed secretary of the Department of Education in 2004, but resigned the next year as part of the Hyatt 10, following the “Hello, Garci” cheating scandal and growing concerns on the legitimacy of the Arroyo administration. He began his term as DBM secretary under the Aquino administration in 2010.

The budget chief also assailed Alentajan’s claim that Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) and the Notices of Cash Allocations (NCAs) were only issued under Abad’s specific authority.

“Alentajan needs to get his facts straight. Since I assumed my post in 2010, the authority to sign these SAROs and NCAs has actually been delegated to an undersecretary,” Abad said.

“It is impossible to take Alentajan’s case seriously. I seriously doubt that he will pursue this case with any sort of moral conviction, given the weakness of his arguments. It seems fairly clear that Alentajan is only acting under orders here, specifically to discredit my name. Giving him any measure of attention would only be a waste of time,” he added.

Abad earlier described as “incredible” the plunder case Alentajan filed before the Office of the Ombudsman for his alleged involvement in the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program, parts of which the Supreme Court had invalidated in July 2014.

“That is absolutely without any basis. It’s a figment of their imagination. Incredible! I do not think they are even serious at all about filing that complaint,” Abad had told reporters when sought for comment.

Alentajan, former president of the Philippine Constitution Association, filed the complaint and called on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to order the preventive suspension of Abad pending investigation of the complaint.

Alentajan asked the anti-graft court Monday to include Abad as a co-accused in the plunder and graft charge against detained Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile in connection with the pork barrel scam.

He filed a motion before the anti-graft court’s Third Division asking for Abad’s inclusion in the list of respondents. Alentajan was representing one of those indicted in the criminal case, Technology Resource Center head Antonio Ortiz.

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