Ombudsman to continue ‘pork’ scam probes
Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - August 14, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman clarified yesterday that it would continue investigating cases related to the pork barrel fund scam with or without complaints from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan, in a chance interview with reporters after a hearing at the Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC), said anyone can file charges or share information that can help the anti-graft agency in its investigation.

The ombudsman’s clarification came after the Department of Justice (DOJ) declared that it has completed its investigation into officials and other individuals involved in the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Sen. Gregorio Honasan and seven other former and incumbent lawmakers including Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general Joel Villanueva were in the last batch to be charged by the NBI.

Rafanan said the allegations against them were being evaluated to determine the appropriate action to take, which can include further fact-finding or the initiation of a preliminary investigation.

Those in the first and second batches led by Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada, and other former lawmakers have already been indicted before the Sandiganbayan.

Rafanan said the ombudsman would still be accepting complaints from other parties including lawyer Levito Baligod, who was claiming that some of those who should be charged by the NBI have not been investigated.

Not the Sandiganbayan 

Meanwhile, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said yesterday it is the Office of the Ombudsman, not the Sandiganbayan, which can include Budget Secretary Florencio Abad in plunder and graft cases arising from the alleged misuse of PDAF.

“The Sandigan cannot do that because it is a court. It is not an investigator or prosecutor,” Rodriguez said in reaction to lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan’s filing a motion asking the anti-graft court to include Abad in the PDAF cases.

“It is the Ombudsman that will do the investigation and file a complaint with the Sandigan if there is evidence. But since the Ombudsman did not charge Secretary Abad, I surmise that they did not find any evidence against him,” Rodriguez, a former law dean, said.

Rodriguez said Alentajan should have filed his motion with the ombudsman.

In filing the motion, Alentajan argued that the budget chief was the “most guilty” party, being the one who approved the release of funds.

Alentajan represents Antonio Ortiz, a former officer of the Technology Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) and one of the accused in some of the PDAF cases.

Members of the House of Representatives were entitled to P25 billion annually in PDAF, the official term for pork barrel, until the Supreme Court ordered it scrapped in November 2013 for being unconstitutional.

He said Abad was right about asking Alentajan to go back to law school if the Ortiz lawyer would insist on asking the Sandigan to implead the budget secretary.

But Rodriguez said he is sure that Alentajan knows his law and that the lawyer probably has his own reason for urging the Sandiganbayan to include Abad in the PDAF cases.

Rodriguez declined to speculate on what made Alentajan file his petition.

Charged with Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla are alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, the senators’ senior aides, and officers of TLRC and other government corporations.

The TLRC and other government agencies, according to COA, had served as conduits of lawmakers funds that eventually ended up in Napoles’ foundations.

Aside from TLRC, which is under the Department of Science and Technology, the state firms are National Agribusiness Corp., which is attached to the Department of Agriculture; National Livelihood Development Corp., a subsidiary of Land Bank of the Philippines; Philippine Forest Corp., which is under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; and Zamboanga State University Real Estate Corp.

On Thursday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told congressmen that her department was done with investigating and filing of charges in connection with the COA special report covering PDAF releases in 2007-2009. – With Jess Diaz


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