4th senator faces plunder raps

MANILA –A fourth senator will be charged with plunder, while 10  members of the House of Representatives will be charged with malversation of public funds over the alleged misuse of their pork barrel using bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) not associated with Janet Lim-Napoles from 2007 to 2009, the Inquirer learned on Friday.

A source privy to the information told the Inquirer that a witness who has knowledge of the transactions implicated the lawmakers in a sworn statement submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation’s Antifraud Division tasked with investigating the non-Napoles NGOs.

Napoles is the alleged brains behind the embezzlement of P10 billion from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in conspiracy with lawmakers and using bogus NGOs.

She is facing plunder charges together with Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile and 50 others in three divisions of the Sandiganbayan over the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

The source, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to talk on the matter, explained that the bogus NGOs were also recipients of allocations from the PDAF, also coursed through implementing agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporations.

The source declined to name the lawmakers, but said some of them were implicated in the Napoles pork barrel cases and others were “new names.’’

Apart from the witness’ account, the investigators were able to get documentary evidence against the lawmakers in the scheme to defraud the government through pork barrel funded projects, the source said.

The Commission on Audit (COA) special report for 2007-2009 and letters of endorsement obtained from the Department of Budget and Management were also used by the investigators as basis for the charges they will file against the lawmakers, the source said.

According to the source, the modus operandi used by the bogus NGOs was the same as the method used by the Napoles groups, but the embezzled amount was not as staggering as in Napoles’ alleged scam.

Third batch

Earlier, another source told the Inquirer that 11 former and current legislators will be charged with malversation of public funds for alleged misuse of their pork barrel from 2007 to 2009 using the Napoles fake NGOs.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has said the third batch of lawmakers to be charged in the Office of the Ombudsman over the pork barrel scam covering 2007-2009 is the last.

The third batch of cases was supposed to be filed last week, but the filing was deferred.

Napoles will also be a respondent in the third batch.

Aside from her, those to be accused of malversation of public funds are Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, Director General Joel Villanueva of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), La Union First District Rep. Victor Ortega, former La Union First District Rep. Manuel Ortega, former Zamboanga Rep. Isidoro Real Jr., Manila Fifth District Rep. Amado Bagatsing, Cagayan de Oro Second District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Abono Rep. Conrado Estrella III and former Abono Rep. Robert Raymund Estrella.

Villanueva, a former nominee of the Citizens Battle Against Corruption to the House and a friend of President Aquino, claimed his signatures in the letters of endorsement, which were part of the evidence, were forgeries.

Honasan declined the Inquirer’s requests for comment.

Bagatsing claimed he was not a congressman at the time of the scam, but official records showed he was Manila’s Fifth District representative then.

Also to be charged is the older brother of Napoles, Valentin Limchu, who allegedly facilitated the Honasan transaction with Michael Benjamin, the senator’s chief political officer.

Limchu is the “VLL” in the Benhur Luy files published by the Inquirer in a series of reports last month.

Luy, a relative and former aide of Napoles, is the principal whistle-blower in the pork barrel scam.

ERC chief to be charged

Also to be charged are Energy Regulation Commission Chair Zenaida Ducut, Celia Cuasay, Maite Defensor, Anthony Dequina and Manuel Harmin.

Rodriguez, a member of Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino of former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, has said he will face the charges and prove his innocence. His signatures in the supposed documents covering the transactions were forgeries, he has said.

Estrella has said he never channeled pork funds through any foundation, stressing that government agencies are the implementers of his projects.

Abono’s Robert Raymund Estrella had the same thing to say in denying dealing with Napoles.

La Union Representative Ortega, a member of the Lakas-CMD party, has also denied ever meeting or doing business with Napoles.

Evidence

Official records from the Department of Budget, a COA special audit report, documents from the implementing agencies and the financial records of  Luy form part of the evidence to be submitted to the Ombudsman against the respondents, the source said.

The source added that as in the first two batches of cases, the third batch would use as evidence the testimonies and documents submitted by the pork barrel scam whistle-blowers led by Luy, Marina Sula and Merlina Suñas.

The first batch of cases covered 39 respondents, of whom eight were former and incumbent lawmakers, including Senators Estrada, Revilla and Enrile.

The three senators and the others were indicted in the Sandiganbayan for plunder and graft on June 6. Estrada and Revilla have been arrested and are now detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center.

The second batch of cases, filed on June 9, had 34 respondents, seven of whom were former members of the House of Representatives.