Ombudsman affirms charges vs. Cotabato lawmaker over P10M PDAF scam
04 January 2017
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has affirmed the filing of charges against former North Cotabato Representative, now Vice-Governor, Gregorio Ipong for the irregularities that tainted the disbursement of his 2007 Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Ipong and four others are facing trial before the Sandiganbayan for one count each of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Malversation of Public Funds.
The Ombudsman also found Ipong administratively liable for Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service and ordered his dismissal from the service and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
In his Motion for Reconsideration, Ipong claimed that “he did not exercise custody and control over his PDAF allocations” and that “conspiracy was not established.”
Ombudsman Morales remained unconvinced and ruled that “Ipong handpicked Aaron Foundation Philippines, Inc. (AFPI) as the conduit-NGO implementor of his PDAF livelihood projects” and that “access to Ipong’s PDAF was made possible through his endorsement letter, asking for the release of his PDAF allocation.”
Ombudsman investigators found that in 2007, the Department of Budget and Management released P10,000,000.00 as part of the lawmaker’s PDAF to fund livelihood projects in the second district of North Cotabato. Documents showed that Ipong indorsed and identified AFPI as NGO-partner with the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) as implementing agency. Field investigation, however, established that the P10M was released in full in a single tranche “despite the AFPI’s non-submission of any project implementation and disbursement reports.”
AFPI, Ipong’s chosen NGO, was also of dubious track record. Records showed that the NGO was not qualified to implement the livelihood project; it had no business permits from 2004 to 2009; its listed business address is located in a vacant lot used as equipment storage; the NGOs capital stock is only P68,000.00; and that its net saving and net losses in 2006-2007 reflected the amounts of P750 and P5,840, respectively.
In refutation, Ipong denied the charges, claiming that “the amount was coursed through AFPI based on the national ten-point agenda of the government at that time” and that “he was not in charge of the subject funds but a mere endorser of the livelihood project.”
Citing Supreme Court jurisprudence, Ombudsman Morales emphasized that “under the Congressional Pork Barrel System, it is the legislator that exercises actual control and custody of the PDAF share allocated to him by appropriations statute.”
Also facing charges are TLRC executives Antonio Ortiz, Dennis Cunanan, Marivic Jover, and Alfredo Ronquillo of AFPI. Jover was also dismissed from the service after she was found guilty of Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service.
Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 prohibits public officials from causing any undue injury to any party, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.###