Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the dismissal from the service of former CIBAC party list representative, now Senator, Emmanuel Joel Villanueva, after he was found guilty of Grave Misconduct, Serious Dishonesty and Conduct Prejudicial to the Interest of the Service. The dismissal order was approved after Villanueva and nine others were found liable for the misuse of the lawmaker’s 2008 Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Apart from this, Villanueva is set to face trial before the Sandiganbayan for two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019), one count each for Malversation of Public Funds and Malversation thru Falsification of Public Documents.
Also included in the charge sheet are former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap, Villanueva’s staff Ronald Samonte, DA employee Delia Ladera, NABCOR representatives Alan Javellana, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Rhodora Mendoza, and Maria Ninez Guanizo; and Aaron Foundation Philippines, Inc. (AFPI) President Alfredo Ronquillo.
Ombudsman investigators found that on 10 June 2008, the Department of Budget and Management released P10million as part of Villanueva’s PDAF to be used “for the implementation of agri-based livelihood projects in the various congressional districts in Region XI.” Two days later, or on 12 June 2008, Villanueva requested Yap to release the amount to the National Agri-business Corporation (NABCOR), as Implementing Agency (IA), with the AFPI as NGO-partner. On 19 June 2008, a Memorandum of Agreement was entered into between Yap, as DA representative, and the NABCOR.
To utilize the P10million PDAF, respondents purchased pechay, radish, sitaw, okra, hybrid yellow corn seedlings, liquid fertilizers and threshers from MJ Rickson Trading Corporation. The items procured were supposed to benefit the residents of the municipalities of Pantukan, Nabunturan, Tambongon, Bongabong, Napnapan, Mipangi, Anislagan and Magsaysay in the Compostela Valley province.
In-depth field validation and investigation, however, disclosed the following: (1) localities were not suitable for farming as the vast majority of land is occupied by banana and coconut plantations; (2) not a single name in the purported list of beneficiaries was a registered voter or resident of the providence; (3) local officials attested and certified that no agri-based livelihood projects were implemented by AFPI.
Documents also disclosed that AFPI had no financial capability to implement the P10million project considering its measly capital stock contribution of only P68,000.00. Ombudsman field investigators also found that the supplier, MJ Rickson could not be located in its business address in Martiniko Street, Malabon City. Neither is the business entity licensed by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority nor registered with the Department of Trade and Industry.
Respondents were also found to have submitted fabricated and undated documents to support the “ghost project” such as Accomplishment Reports, Disbursement Reports, Acceptance Reports, and liquidation documents.
Fraught with these irregularities and red flags, the Commission on Audit disallowed the P10million transaction and issued a Notice of Disallowance on 12 August 2014.
As defense, Villanueva claimed that his signatures in the documents were forged.
According to Ombudsman Morales, “laws and regulations were disregarded by public respondents when Villanueva directly selected NABCOR and AFPI to implement his livelihood projects and the IA officers accepted and accommodated Villanueva by facilitating the processing and approval of the PDAF releases.”
She added that, “NABCOR officers did not even bother to conduct a due diligence audit on AFPI as to its technical and financial capability and simply accepted and relied on the representation of Villanueva and AFPI to undertake the projects in contravention of existing procurement laws.”
Ombudsman Morales, citing Supreme Court jurisprudence, emphasized that “in a Congressional Pork Barrel System, it is the legislator who exercises actual control and custody of the PDAF share.”
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III was directed by the Ombudsman to implement the dismissal order against Villanueva. ###