Ombudsman dismisses the staff of former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile for involvement in PDAF scam

News bullet:

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ©

OMBUDSMAN Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the dismissal from the service of 12 respondents in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam after they were found guilty of Grave Misconduct, Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service and Dishonesty.

Dismissed were Jessica Lucila Reyes, chief of staff, Office of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile; her deputy Jose Antonio Evangelista II, Victor Roman Cacal, National Agribusiness Corporation paralegal; Gondelina Amata, National Livelihood Development Corporation president; Chita Jalandoni, NLDC department manager III; Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, NLDC director; Ofelia Ordoñez, NLDC cashier; Filipina Rodriguez, NLDC budget officer; Sofia Cruz, Project Development Assistant; Dennis Cunanan, Technology Resource Center director general; Consuelo Lilian Espiritu, TRC budgewt officer; and Marivic Jover, TRC chief accountant.

Morales said the dismissal order also carries with it the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office and forfeiture of all retirement benefits.  She added that in the event of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondent’s salary for one year.

Reyes, et. al. are also being tried before the Sandiganbayan for their involvement in the anomalous utilization of the 2007 to 2009 PDAF of former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

Former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile Photo ©

The Ombudsman found out that from 2004 to 2010, Senator Enrile, continuously endorsed the implementation of his PDAF-funded livelihood and agricultural production projects in different parts of the country to questionable Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) associated with or controlled by Janet Lim Napoles.

Moreover, the Ombudsman claimed, from 2007 to 2009, a total of P345,000,000.00 was released by the Department of Budget and Management as part of Enrile’s PDAF.  After the fund release, Enrile identified the NABCOR, NLDC and TRC as implementing agencies. It added that to facilitate the scam, Enrile, through Reyes, authorized Evangelista, to act for the Senator, deal with the parties involved in the process and sign documents necessary for the immediate and timely implementation of his PDAF-funded projects.

Enrile also endorsed the following NGO as project partners: (1) Agri and Economic Program for farmers Foundation Inc.; (2) Agricultura para sa Magbubukid Foundation, Inc.; (3) Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation, Inc.; (4) Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation; (5) People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation, Inc.; and (6) Social Development Program for Farmer’s Foundation, Inc., the Ombudsman added

The P345M fund was allegedly used to buy tools and implements, financial grants and subsidies, technical assistance technology transfer through video courses (VCDs), printed materials, vegetable seeds, hand tools, gloves, masks, vests, caps, garden tools, knapsack sprayers, fertilizer, gardening packages, rakes, agricultural livelihood packages, agricultural chemicals, and small scale agri-packages.

Actual field validation conducted by the Ombudsman, however, revealed that no deliveries were made to the supposed beneficiaries — mayors and municipal agriculturists — who, at the same time, also denied receiving any of the items from the office Senator Enrile, the implementing agencies or any of the NGOs.

The Commission on Audit observed that (1) the NGOs that received the multi-million peso PDAF releases did not have the track record to implement the projects; (2) the selection of the NGOs, as well as the alleged procurement of goods for distribution of beneficiaries did not undergo public bidding; (3) the suppliers denied having dealt with any of the NGOs; and (4) the reported beneficiaries were unknown or could not be located at their given addresses.

In addition, whistleblower Benhur Luy’s records showed that “Enrile received, through respondents Reyes and Ruby Tuason, total commissions, rebates or kickbacks amounting to at least P172,834,500.00.”

Morales, she stated that “based on testimonial and documentary evidence presented, the widespread misuse of the PDAF allotted to a legislator was coursed through a complex scheme basically involving projects supposed to have been funded by said PDAF which turned out to be inexistent or “ghost projects.”

“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,” Morales noted.

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