Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has ordered the dismissal from the service of Sen. Joel Villanueva for allegedly misusing R10-million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund or “pork barrel” fund when he was still Citizens Battle Against Corruption party-list representative in 2008.
The lawmaker was found guilty by the anti-graft body of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service through malversation of public funds.
The Ombudsman instructed Senate President Koko Pimentel to implement the dismissal order against Villanueva.
But Pimentel said he could not implement the Ombudsman’s order because Villanueva has filed a motion for reconsideration.
“Hence, the Ombudsman must act on that first before I act on the Ombudsman’s letter to me (to dismiss Villanueva),’’ he said.
“Before I act on the Ombudsman’s letter to me, I would follow the ‘better procedure’ which is to refer the Ombudsman’s letter to the (Senate) rules committee,’’ Pimentel added.
Villanueva, a first term senator, said the case is an old one which surfaced when he was a CIBAC representative.
“As far as I can remember, as a minority congressman then, I did not receive that amount. In addition, the NBI has already made a conclusion that the signatures on the related documents were forged. One of the documents even used a Buhay party-list letterhead, when I was representing CIBAC partylist,’’ he said.
“I already filed a motion for reconsideration before the Ombudsman, and will leave it to the Senate President to act on the Ombudsman’s order. In any case, my faith is strong in the judicial system and in time, justice will be served,’’ Villanueva, the son of Jesus is Lord Movement founder Bro. Eddie Villanueva, said.
Sen. Villanueva is facing two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and one count each for malversation of public funds and malversation through falsification of public documents and is set to face trial before the Sandiganbayan.
Also indicted were former Department of Agriculture Secretary now Bohol Rep. Arthur C. Yap, Villanueva’s staff Ronald Samonte, DA employee Delia Ladera, National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) representatives Alan Javellana, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Rhodora Mendoza, and Maria Ninez Guanizo; and Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc. President Alfredo Ronquillo.
Ombudsman investigators found that on June 10, 2008, the Department of Budget and Management released P10 million 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 (Davao).”
Two days later, Villanueva requested Yap to release the amount to the Nabcor as implementing agency with the AFPI as non-government organization partner.
On June 19, 2008, a memorandum of agreement was entered into between Yap, as DA representative, and the Nabcor.
To utilize the P10-million PDAF, respondents purchased pechay, radish, sitaw (string beans), okra, hybrid yellow corn seedlings, liquid fertilizers, and threshers from MJ Rickson Trading Corp.
The items procured were supposed to benefit the residents of the municipalities of Pantukan, Nabunturan, Tambongon, Bongabong, Napnapan, Mipangi, Anislagan, and Magsaysay in Compostela Valley.
However, investigation showed that not a single beneficiary was a registered voter of the province as local officials testified that no livelihood projects were implemented by AFPI as the area was not suitable for farming but banana and coconut plantations.
Documents also disclosed that AFPI had no financial capability to implement the P10 million project, considering its measly capital stock contribution of only P68,000.
Likewise, Ombudsman probers also found that the supplier, MJ Rickson, could not be located in its business address on Martiniko St., Malabon City and not registered with the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority and 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 P10-million transaction and issued a notice of disallowance on August 12, 2014. (JUN RAMIREZ)