Ombudsman perpetually bars Estrada staff, 13 others for PDAF scam involvement
02 March 2017
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the dismissal from the service of 14 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.
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 involvement in the anomalous utilization of the 2007 to 2009 PDAF of former Senator Jinggoy Estrada.
Investigation found that from 2007 to 2009, a total of
P480,650,000.00 was taken from Senator Estrada’s PDAF, out of which amount P278 million was coursed through non-government organizations (NGOs) controlled by Janet Lim Napoles. The P278 million was released by the Department of Budget and Management through nine (9) Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO). After the release of the SARO, 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.
P278 million fund was intended to be 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, namely: 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 revealed that no deliveries were made to the supposed beneficiaries. Mayors and municipal agriculturists denied receiving any of the items from the office 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 investigation, whistleblower Benhur Luy submitted records to show that “Estrada received, through Labayen and Ruby Tuason, total commissions, rebates, or kickbacks amounting to at least
Respondents Labayen, Ortiz and Jalandoni did not submit any counter-affidavit. Meantime, as defense, 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 Decision, the Ombudsman ruled 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 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.
“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,” added Ombudsman Morales.
According to Ombudsman Morales, “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.###