By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent
Former Rep. Arthur Pingoy Jr., of South Cotabato became the last of former Congress members to go to court for alleged involvement in the PHP 10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam as the Ombudsman filed with the Sandiganbayan graft and malversation cases against Pingoy, alleged scam queen Janet Lim Napoles and 18 other former government officials most recently.
Napoles as co-accused faces the lesser offenses of graft and malversation since this case involves just PHP 20 million and falls short of the PHP 50 million threshold for plunder, for which she is being tried as co-accused in other PDAF-centered cases. In those cases, Napoles has been granted bail due to “weak” evidence and stays in detention only because the anti-graft court thought she had whistleblower Benhur Luy illegally detained when the latter threatened to expose the scam.
The Office of the Ombudsman said Pingoy was the last among six former lawmakers to be charged before the Sandiganbayan for their involvement in the pork barrel scam since the scandal shook the nation in 2013.
Apart from Pingoy, already charged this month were former Energy Regulatory Commission chairperson and former Pampanga Rep. Zenaida Ducut, former Customs chief and Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon and former Representatives Arrel Olaño (Davao Del Norte), Marc Douglas Cagas IV (Davao del Sur) and Rodolfo Valencia (Oriental Mindoro).
Aside from them, five other former congressmen and three incumbent senators—Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada — are also being tried before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the pork barrel scam.
Also charged with Pingoy and Napoles in the latest PDAF-related cases were former Technology Resource Center (TRC) Director General Antonio Ortiz, former TRC Deputy Director General Dennis Cunanan, and former TRC employees Francisco Figura and Marivic Jover.
Other co-respondents were former National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) President Alan Javellana, former Nabcor Administrative and Finance Department Vice President Rhodora Mendoza, former Nabcor employees Maria Ninez Guanizo and Victor Cacal; former Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. President Evelyn de Leon (PSDFI); and private individuals Noel Macha, John Raymund de Asis and John Bernardo.
The Ombudsman alleged that the respondents caused undue injury to the government in the total amount of PHP 20.9 million between 2007 and 2009.
Based on the charge sheets, Pingoy allegedly endorsed PSDFI and the Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation, Inc. (SDPFFI) to the implementing agencies TRC and Nabcor, respectively, as “project-partner” in providing livelihood projects in South Cotabato’s second district funded by his PDAF.
The endorsement, however, was “in disregard of the appropriation law and its implementing rules, and/or without the benefit of public bidding as required under Republic Act No. 9184 and its implementing rules and regulations…”
The Ombudsman said the PSDFI and SDPFFI, which were non-government organizations (NGOs) allegedly run by Napoles, were “unaccredited and unqualified” to undertake the projects.
It also alleged that Relampagos, Nuñez, Paule and Bare, “unduly accommodating Napoles and her cohorts, hastily facilitated” the Special Allotment Release Orders (Saro) and the corresponding Notice of Cash Allocations (NCA) that resulted in the release of the PDAF to TRC and Nabcor.
Pingoy and Ortiz then allegedly entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with De Leon on the supposed implementation of the PDAF-funded projects. Pingoy and Javellana also allegedly entered into an MoA with SDPFFI.
Checks were allegedly issued without TRC and Nabcor officers and employees having carefully examined and verified the accreditation and qualification of the NGOs and the transactions’ supporting documents, the Ombudsman alleged.
Thus, according to the charge sheets, the accused public respondents allegedly allowed PSDFFI and SDPFFI “to divert said PDAF-drawn public funds into Napoles’ control instead of implementing the PDAF-funded projects, which turned out to be non-existent…”
The Ombudsman recommended a PHP 30,000-bail for each of the respondents’ temporary liberty in the graft cases, and a PHP 40,000-bail each in the malversation cases. Pingoy and Ducut also face direct bribery charges.
Based on the charge sheets, Pingoy, “by himself and/or through his co-conspirator Ducut,” received PHP 6.755 million and PHP 300,000 from Napoles in 2007 and 2008, respectively.