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Estrada staff, 13 others ordered dismissed from service for PDAF scam

MANILA, March 2 (PNA) -- Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the dismissal from the service of 14 respondents in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

This was after they were found guilty of grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and dishonesty.

Ordered dismissed were Pauline Therese Mary Labayen (Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada), Antonio Ortiz (Director General, Technology Resource Center), Gondelina Amata (President, National Livelihood Development Corporation), Victor Roman Cacal (Paralegal, National Agribusiness Corporation), Maria Niñez Guañizo (OIC-Accounting Division, NABCOR), Romulo Relevo (General Services Unit head), Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson (Chief Accountant, NABCOR), Rhodora Mendoza (Director, Financial Management Services, NABCOR), Dennis Cunanan (Director General, TRC), Evelyn Sucgang (Director Accounts Management and Development, NLDC), Chita Jalandoni (Department Manager III, NLDC), Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal (Director IV, NLDC), Marivic Jover (Chief Accountant, TRC) and Sofia Cruz (Project Development Assistant IV, NLDC).

The dismissal order carries the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office and forfeiture of all retirement benefits.

In the event of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondent’s salary for one year.

Labayen, et al. are also being tried before the Sandiganbayan for their alleged involvement in the anomalous utilization of the 2007 to 2009 PDAF of former Senator Estrada.

Probe found that from 2007 to 2009, a total of PHP480.65 million was taken from Senator Estrada’s PDAF, out of which PHP278 million was coursed through non-government organizations (NGOs) controlled by Janet Lim Napoles.

Napoles is the alleged “brains” behind the PHP10-billion pork barrel and the PHP900-million Malampaya Fund scams.

The PHP278 million was released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) through nine Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO).

After the release of the SAROs, Estrada through Labayen, identified the NABCOR, NLDC and TRC as implementing agencies coursed through the Napoles NGOs, namely: Masaganing Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation, Inc. and Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation, Inc.

The PHP278-million fund was intended to buy livelihood materials, farm implements, livelihood kits in dressmaking, nail care, pickled fruits and veggies, jewelry-making, soap-making, barbering, silkscreen printing, aromatic candle making, wellness massage, cell phone repair, basic auto repair, food processing, etc.

Estrada allegedly identified the following provinces as project-beneficiaries: Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga Sibugay, Tawi-Tawi, Cotabato, Batangas, Quezon, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Agusan Del Sur, Agusan Del Norte, Laguna, Tuguegarao, and Compostela Valley.

Actual field validation conducted by the Ombudsman found that no deliveries were made to the supposed beneficiaries.

Mayors and municipal agriculturists denied receiving any of the items from the office of Senator Estrada, the implementing agencies or any of the NGOs.

The documents submitted by the NGOs such as disbursement, progress, accomplishment reports, fund utilization reports, delivery and inspection reports were all fabricated.

During the probe, whistleblower Benhur Luy submitted records to show that “Estrada received, through Labayen and Ruby Tuason, total commissions, rebates, or kickbacks amounting to at least PHP183,793,750.00.”

Respondents Labayen, Ortiz and Jalandoni did not submit any counter-affidavit.

The other respondents argued that “the filing of the complaints was premature because the Commission on Audit (COA) had yet to issue notices of disallowances on disbursements drawn from the PDAF.

In its ruling, the Ombudsman said that “administrative proceedings pertaining to a COA disallowance is distinct and separate from a preliminary investigation in a criminal case which have arisen from the same set of facts. Both proceedings may proceed independently of each other.”

The COA observed the NGOs that received the multi-million peso PDAF releases did not have the track record to implement the projects; the selection of the NGOs, as well as the alleged procurement of goods for distribution of beneficiaries did not undergo public bidding; the suppliers denied having dealt with any of the NGOs; and the reported beneficiaries were unknown or could not be located at their given addresses.

“The concerned officials of NABCOR, NLDC and TRC did not even bother to conduct a due diligence audit on the selected NGO and the supplier by the NGO to provide the livelihood kits, which supply was carried out without the benefit of public bidding, in contravention of existing procurement rules and regulations,” Ombudsman Morales said.

Morales added that “in most instances, the disbursement vouchers (DV) were accomplished, signed and approved on the same day. Certainly, the required careful examination of the transaction’s supporting documents could not have taken place if the DV was processed and approved in one day.” (PNA)

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