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Sandigan junks Honasan âporkâ raps
In a 52-page resolution promulgated on Dec. 16, the anti-graft court’s Second Division granted Honasan’s demurrer to evidence filed in January last year, wherein he prayed for the dismissal of his graft cases without presenting his defense.
Senate PRIB/Edward Ganal, File

Sandigan junks Honasan ‘pork’ raps

Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has dismissed the graft charges filed against Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan II in connection with the alleged misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel amounting to P30 million when he was senator in 2012.

In a 52-page resolution promulgated on Dec. 16, the anti-graft court’s Second Division granted Honasan’s demurrer to evidence filed in January last year, wherein he prayed for the dismissal of his graft cases without presenting his defense.

The dismissal would be based solely on the supposed weakness of evidence presented by the prosecution.

The court also granted the demurrers filed by National Council on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) director III Galay Makalinggan, secretary Mehol Sadain, acting division chief Aurora Aragon-Mabang, acting chief accountant Fedelina Aldanese and cashier Olga Galido as well as that of Honasan’s political affairs and project coordinator Michael Benjamin and private respondent Giovanni Manuel Gaerlan, former president of Focus on Development Goals Foundation Inc., a non-government organization.

Honasan and his co-accused were cleared of two counts of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The court said the Office of the Ombudsman failed to sufficiently establish the essential elements of the crime charged and overcome the presumption of innocence in favor of the accused.

Filed by the ombudsman in 2017, the charges stemmed from the alleged misuse of Honasan’s PDAF amounting to P30 million, which was intended for supposed implementation of his livelihood projects for Muslim Filipinos in Metro Manila and Zambales.

The ombudsman said Honasan “unilaterally chose and endorsed” Focus on Development Goals Foundation Inc. to be the implementer of the projects without the benefit of a public bidding.

Honasan and his co-accused NCMF officials instead entered into a negotiated procurement with Focus despite the absence of any appropriation law or ordinance for such mode of procurement, the ombudsman added.

The ombudsman said the release of payment to Focus amounting to P29.1 million was also processed “with unusual accommodation and haste.”

In its ruling, the court said it appeared that Focus had already been selected by NCMF to be the implementer of Honasan’s projects even before it received Honasan’s endorsement letter dated June 5, 2012.

The court said the prosecution failed to present any other evidence to show that Honasan made prior endorsement of Focus, apart from his June 5 letter.

Besides, the court said, the selection of Focus appeared to have undergone proper procedure as proven by the NCMF’s creation of an accreditation committee to screen NGOs vying to implement the former senator’s projects.

It cited a circular issued by the Commission on Audit (COA), which states that an NGO can be selected for a project in two modes – either through the bids and awards committee or through the accreditation committee created for the purpose.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi and concurred in by Associate Justices Oscar Herrera Jr. and Bernelito Fernandez.

Associate Justices Bayani Jacinto and Zaldy Trespeses dissented.

GRAFT PRIORITY DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE FUND
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