MANILA, Philippines – Former House speaker Prospero Nograles faces graft and malversation charges for the alleged misuse of P47.5 million worth of another lawmaker's Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
The amount in question was the PDAF of former Misamis Oriental representative Danilo Lagbas, who died in 2008. After his death, Nograles, then Davao City congressman, took over as caretaker of Lagbas' district, the Office of the Ombudsman said in a statement on Tuesday, March 7.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the indictment of Nograles for 3 counts of graft, one count of malversation, and two counts of malversation through falsification of documents over ghost projects.
Morales said Nograles signed the letter-requests to the implementing agencies for the release of PDAF allocation to non-governmental organizations.
According to state investigators, the Deparrtment of Budget and Management released P47.5 million from Lagbas' PDAF to the National Agri-business Corporation (NABCOR), Technology Resource Center (TRC), and National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC), which was then allocated to several NGOs for projects.
They turned out to be ghost projects as according to the Ombudsman's Field Investigation Unit in Mindanao, the beneficiaries never received the kits, materials, seedlings, hand tractors and water pumps. The documents which supported the projects were also found to be "questionable and spurious."
The NGOs were also found unfit for government projects because of non-compliance to requirements and eligibility tests.
"Lagbas, and upon his death, Nograles, did not only propose, select, identify the programs to be funded out of the PDAF allocation, but also directly participated and intervened in the various phases of the project implementation," Morales said.
Also charged with Nograles are:
Jennifer Karen Lagbas, Nograles' chief of staff
Danilo Jamito, Nograles' chief public affairs officer
Allan Javellana, NABCOR
Encarnita Cristina Munsod, NABCOR
Romulo Relevo, NABCOR
Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, NABCOR
Rhodora Mendoza , NABCOR
Gondelina Amata, NLDC
Evelyn Sucgang, NLDC
Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, NLDC
Ofelia Ordoñez, NLDC
Sofia Cruz, NLDC
Antonio Ortiz, TRC
Dennis Cunanan, TRC
Marivic Jover, TRC
Ma. Rosalinda Lacsamana, TRC
Marilou Antonio, TRC
Godofredo Roque, TRC
Maria Paz Vega, TRC
Marilou Ferrer, TRC
Rodrigo Doria, TRC
Flerida Alberto, TRC
Miraflor Villanueva, TRC
Melinda Guerrero, TRC
Carmelita Barredo, TRC
Nograles said he will file a motion for reconsideration before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to overturn the Ombudsman's decision, saying that the letter-requests that the Ombudsman referred to contained "spurious signatures."
Nogales said that even when he was assigned caretaker of Lagbas' district, he did not have administrative control of the day-to-day operations of the late congressman's office.
Nograles also pointed out that there was a Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) that was attributed to him on a date that Lagbas was still alive. He added that there were other documents which contained his signatures on dates that he was not even in the country.
"We still have a lot of legal remedies but we are also ready to fight this all-out before the Sandiganbayan. The Ombudsman is losing a lot of cases because they seem to lack the patience and the diligence to study their cases," Nograles said in a statement. – Rappler.com