Manila: Several government executives are being held accountable by the anti-graft watchdog for the diversion of so-called pork barrel funds amounting to P30 million (Dh2.22 million).
According to the Office of the Ombudsman, nine executives of the National Council for Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) as well as the political affairs chief of the office of former Senator Gregorio Honasan, have been ordered dismissed from service for their involvement in the diversion of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the scandal concerning the government share of funds from the Malampaya gasfields in Palawan.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said it had been determined that the respondents “were not performing ministerial acts when they signed the disbursement vouchers and cheques for the release of funds to Focus (the non-government organisation partner for the project).”
Under the PDAF system, certain projects of senators and congressmen are provided with fund allocations. Before these allotment can be released, the concerned lawmakers must first submit reasons to justify its release and who would benefit from it.
Once the fund is allocated, it is coursed through a non-government organisation (NGO) for release.
But in the case of the P30 million PDAF fund allocated to Honasan, it was found out that there were certain anomalies.
Found guilty of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service were NCMF officials Mehol Sadain, Fedelina Aldanese, Galay Makalinggan, Sania Busran, Aurora Aragon-Mabang, Olga Galido; and Michael Benjamin — the political affairs chief of Honasan.
The Malampaya gasfield is located off the island of Palawan in Western Philippines. The Senators, being nationally-elected officials, are allocated their share of proceeds from revenues of the gasfield so they can spend them for projects for that particular area.
However, in the case of Honasan’s PDAF share, it was allocated to what turned out to be a “ghost” NGO, Focus Development.
“Sadain, et. al. “participated in the preparation, processing and approval of the Memorandum of Agreement and the PDAF documents governing the project implementation and fund releases to Focus Development Goals Foundation, as NGO partner,” Carpio-Morales said.
In its investigation, the Ombudsman found that in April 2012, the Department of Budget and Management released P30 million as part of the Honasan’s PDAF with the NCMF as implementing agency. The fund was intended to finance small and medium enterprise/livelihood projects for the benefit of Muslim Filipinos in communities in the National Capital Region and Zambales.
But documents showed that in June 2012, Honasan endorsed Focus Development as NGO-partner without compliance with procurement regulations.
In a separate decision, the Ombudsman also ordered the dismissal from the service of Teresita Panlilio and Ronald Venancio, both from the DAR. The duo was found guilty of Grave Misconduct and ordered perpetually barred from holding public office. In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondents’ salaries for one year.
Panlilio and Venancio are among the 25 respondents facing two counts of Plunder and multiple graft and Malversation charges after the Ombudsman established their indispensable acts of participation in the illegal diversion of P900 million (Dh66.70 million) from the Malampaya funds.
The P900 million was then given to the DAR and distributed to 12 NGOs backed by Janet Lim Napoles.
Napoles had been detained by the government since 2012 in connection with the pork barrel anomalies.