MANILA, Aug 7 (Mabuhay) – After several delays, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Friday formally filed the graft complaints against the third batch of incumbent and former government officials allegedly involved in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
In separate complaints filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, the NBI said Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan III, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) Director General Joel Villanueva, Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing, La Union Rep. Victor Ortega and Abono party-list Rep. Conrado Estrella III, have all violated Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The kickbacks the nine lawmakers allegedly received were as follows:
Honasan – P1.75 million
Bagatsing – P600,000
Conrado Estrella – P45.03 million
Robert Raymund Estrella – P22.675 million
Manuel Ortega – P14.35 million
Victor Francisco Ortega – P9,587,500
Real – P3.25 million
Rodriguez – P2.099 million
Villanueva – P2.33 million
They were charged with the following crimes:
malversation of public fund under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code
direct bribery under Art. 210 of the RPC
manifest partiality and bad faith in grantinf unwarranted benefits and advantage to the injury of the government (Section 3 [e] of Republic Act 3019)
requesting a share or percentage from a government contract (Section 3 [b] of Republic Act 3019)
entering into a transaction grossly disadvantageous to the government (Section 3 [g] of Republic Act 3019)
granting license or privilege to a person not qualified (Section 3 [j] of Republic Act 3019)
Also charged with the same violation were incumbent La Union Governor and former La Union Rep. Manuel Ortega, former Abono party-list Rep. Robert Raymundo Estrella and former Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Isidro Real Jr.
According to the NBI, all the respondents were guilty of allocating their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), more commonly known as pork barrel, to the fake foundations allegedly owned by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the supposed brains of the scam.
The NBI said its Questioned Documents Division had to examine the signatures of five of the respondents—Estrella III, Bagatsing, Rodriguez, V. F. Ortega, and Villanueva—upon their request.
The NBI QDD later found out that the signatures did not match the lawmakers’ specimen, while it was unable to arrive at a finding on the other questioned documents.
“However, the findings and the QDD are not conclusive and binding upon the results of this investigation. This will still be subject to the scrutiny of of the Sandiganbayan in the event the Ombudsman decides to file the criminal cases with said court,” read the executive summary.
Also charged along with the lawmakers was Napoles, who is currently detained at the Philippine Women’s Correctional over a separate serious illegal detention charge.
Also charged were representatives of the lawmakers, namely:
Michael Benjamin (Honasan)
Anthony Dequina (Honasan)
Valentino Limchu (Honasan)
Manuel Jarmin (Honasan)
Celia Cuasay (Bagatsing)
Lourd Dexter Manalo (Estrella III)
Ronald Casareno (Estrella III)
“Irma” (Estrella III)
Zenaida Grace-Ducut (Ortegas)
Jenny Quero (Ortega)
Ronald Francisco Lim (Real)
Maximo Bautista Rodriguez (Rodriguez)
Ma. Theresa Defensor-Asuncion (Villanueva)
Also charged were heads of agencies, including:
Alan Javellan, former president of the National Agribusiness Corp
Gondelina Amata, president of the National Livelihood Development Corp
Antonio Ortiz, former director general of the Technology Resource Center
Dennis Cunanan, former deputy director general (now director general) of TRC
Mylene Encarnacion of Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation Inc (CARED) and Evelyn Ditchon-De Leon of the Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc) (PSDFI), who are both presidents of Napoles NGOs, were also charged.
Implementing agency officials and employees were also charged:
Ma. Ninez Guanizo
Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson
Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal
Due to politics?
Villanueva, a former CIBAC party-list representative and a political ally of the Aquino administration, said he is prepared to meet the charges.
“If it’s gonna come to this, so be it. Hindi ako natatakot sa katotohanan at kailanman ay hindi ako umaatras sa kahit anong laban na ibinibigay sa akin ng aking mga kalaban sa pulitika,” Villanueva said in a short interview with reporters.
He happened to be at the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday to attend the hearing of a complaint filed by TESDA against a certain local official.
He had earlier denied involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez is also a known administration ally though he is not a member of the ruling Liberal Party. He is the current chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee hearing the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Honasan, on the other hand is the current vice president of the opposition party United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Bagatsing, meanwhile, had expressed his intention to run against incumbent Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada in the 2016 mayoralty polls.
The filing of the third batch of pork barrel scam-related cases suffered a setback last year after the NBI, which was probing the Napoles-related transactions, found that some of the signatures of the accused in the documents to be used by the NBI as evidence were forged.
Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano earlier said the NBI already addressed the issue of forged signatures at the course of its investigation.
“Ni-revise namin yung unang letter-complaint to address the issues they raised na forged daw yung mga signatures nila…and then nagdagdag kami ng additional documents. So ngayon, kahit sabihin nila na forged ang signatures nila, sinigurado namin na makakasuhan pa rin sila,” Justiniano said.
The first batch of officials charged by the NBI before the Office of the Ombudsman in 2013 included Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. The Ombudsman then filed plunder and graft charges against the three senators before the Sandiganbayan early last year.
The second batch of PDAF cases, meanwhile, was filed by the DOJ before the Office of the Ombudsman in mid-2014 against five former members of the House of Representatives. The Ombudsman filed the case before the Sandiganbayan in February of this year. (MNS)