MANILA (Mabuhay) — Senator Gregorio Honasan and eight former and incumbent members of the House of Representatives are among those to be criminally charged by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the third batch of cases that it will file related to the alleged pork barrel fund scam.
In an interview with reporters on Tuesday, Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano said the nine would be facing graft and malversation charges, adding no one will be charged with plunder because the amount involved did not reach and exceed P50 million.
“Wala kaming binawas kung alam ninyo yung listahan before yun din iyon… Sabi ko nga wala kaming babawasan, wala kaming dadagdagan,” said Justiniano, referring to a television report on the same nine individuals to be included on the third batch.
Apart from Honasan, those on the list are:
— Incumbent Abono party-list Rep. Conrado Estrella III, who allegedly allocated P82 million of his pork barrel, or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), to non-government organizations linked to alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, namely Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation, Inc. (CARED); Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation, Inc. (MAMFI); Philippine Agri and Social Economic Development Foundation, Inc. (PASEDF); People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation, Inc. (POPDF); and Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation, Inc. (SDPFFI);
— Former Abono party-list Rep. Robert Raymundo Estrella, who allegedly allocated P56 million of his PDAF to POPDF and SDPFFI;
— Incumbent La Union governor and former La Union Rep. Manuel Ortega who allegedly allocated P30 million of his PDAF to CARED;
— Incumbent La Union Rep. Victor Ortega who allegedly allocated P18 million of his PDAF to POPDF and SDPFFI.;
— Former Zamboanga Del Sur Rep. Isidro Real Jr. who allegedly allocated P5 million of his PDAF to Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI);
— Incumbent Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez who allegedly allocated P3.5 million also to PSDFI;
— Incumbent Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) secretary general and former Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list Rep. Joel Villanueva who allegedly allocated P4.3 million of his PDAF to MAMFI; and
— Incumbent Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing who allegedly allocated P1 million of his PDAF to MAMFI.
The third batch of cases suffered a setback last year after the National Bureau of Investigation, which was probing Napoles-related transactions, found that some signatures in the documents had been forged.
But Justiniano on Tuesday said despite confirmation of forged signatures, the implicated government officials will still not be spared from criminal charges.
“Mayroon talagang mga NBI findings na mayroong signatures na forged. [Pero] ang aming pinag-aralan, ito ba ay depensa sa kasong ifa-file namin? According to the Ombudsman, ay hindi ito depensa,” said Justiniano, adding the crimes charged are graft and malversation, and not falsification
“Naniniwala kami na kahit forged signature, hindi iyan depensa. If depensa nila yan, doon na nila banggitin sa Ombudsman… at kung lalagpas pa, [doon] sa husgado,” he added.
Justiniano said claiming their signatures were forged was a “trend” in the series of pork barrel cases, citing Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., who was among the respondents in the first batch of cases filed in connection with the alleged scam.
“Ang depensang iyan, ni-raise niya [Revilla] sa Ombudsman. Ang sabi ng Ombudsman sa resolution ay irrelevant iyan dahil hindi falsification ang iniimbestigahan nila,” he said.
Justiniano said they would be forwarding the third batch to the Office of the Ombudsman for further investigation or preliminary investigation. He did not say when, noting that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will still have to go over the list and decide whether to modify it or not.
“Kung ano man ang rekomendasyon ko sa kanya [De Lima] ay puwede niyang baguhin,” said Justiniano, who was the one earlier tasked by De Lima to supervise the DOJ probe on the pork scam.
Justiniano is currently assisting the Office of the Ombudsman in pursuing the first batch of pork barrel cases pending with the Sandiganbayan.
Asked in a separate interview on Tuesday if she would remove names on the third batch, De Lima said: “I really cannot tell you. I never did that in the firts and second batches kasi wala akong nakitang diperensiya kaya in-approve ko in toto. Itong third batch, tignan natin if I will be able to approve everything.”
Justiniano said that forged signatures in pork-related documents was nothing new, saying whitsleblowers themselves have earlier admitted in court to faking signatures. Among the documents with forged signatures were endorsement letters, liquidation forms, project proposals, and project completion forms, among others.
As for project listings, Justiniano said it was hard to tell if the signatures had been forged there because no such documents were submitted to the NBI.
“Kung forged ang signature dapat respetuhin dahil NBI ang gumawa nun [pag-verify]… Pero mayroon naman ibang bagay na ginawa ka [to show] na may enough basis din para makasuhan ka. Hindi lang signature ang pinag babasehan namin,” said Justiniano.
The DOJ official also echoed De Lima’s earlier statement that investigators never took into consideration the implicated individuals’ political affiliation when coming up with the pork barrel cases. (MNS)