SEVEN criminal charges were filed before the Sandiganbayan yesterday against former Ilocos Sur Rep. Salacnib Baterina and businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles over the alleged fraudulent transfer of the lawmaker’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” allocations to bogus non-government organization (NGOs) totaling P35 million in 2007.
The charges consist of three counts each of graft and malversation of public funds and one count of direct bribery. Prosecutors recommended that bail bonds for the defendants be set at P30,000 for each count of graft and bribery and P40,000 per malversation case.
Former Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, who was previously among those ordered indicted by the Office of the Ombudsman, was cleared of any liability after his motion for reconsideration was granted on review.
Investigators earlier questioned Andaya’s release of the Special Allotment Release Orders for Baterina’s PDAF when the profiles of projects to be funded as well as the indorsements from implementing agencies have not been submitted.
In his appeal, Andaya pointed out that the General Appropriations Act for 2005 and later years already waived the requirement for prior submission of project profile and endorsements since a list of allowable projects for PDAF funding were already included in the provisions of the national budget.
Baterina’s PDAF was released in separate installments of P10 million, P10 million, and P15 million – all in 2007.
The PDAF releases were downloaded to the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) which allegedly funneled P25 million into the Kaagapay Magpakailanman Foundation Inc (KMFI) after deducting P700,000 as “service fees” and “livelihood materials.”
The remaining P10 million went to the Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI) less the P400,000 for service fees and livelihood materials deducted by the TLRC.
Named co-accused of Baterina and Napoles in all seven charges were former TLRC director general Antonio Ortiz, former deputy director general Dennis Cunanan, corporate service group manager Francisco Figura, sales and promotion supervisor Belina Concepcion, chief accountant Marivic Jover, and internal auditor Maurine Dimaranan.
Private individuals Godofredo Roque, Carlos Soriano, and France Mercado were also indicted in two counts each of graft and malversation of public funds.
Former Energy Regulatory Commission chairperson Zenaida Cruz-Ducut, Budget undersecretary Mario Relampagos, budget and management specialist Rosario Nuñez, and administrative assistants Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare were each named co-defendants in one count each of graft and malversation of public funds, together with alleged Napoles partner Evelyn Ditchon de Leon.
Ducut was also named lone co-accused of Baterina in the direct bribery case.
According to the Ombudsman, Ducut acted as an agent of Napoles for Baterina, her primary duty being “to look for lawmakers willing to deal with Napoles in connection with the PDAF scheme.”
It said Napoles, Roque and Soriano “controlled” the KMFI while the PSDFI was run by Napoles and De Leon. – Peter Tabingo