FORMER representative of the 3rd District of Nueva Ecija and provincial governor Aurelio Umali was charged before the Office of the Ombudsman with graft after government investigators reportedly found him and several others liable for the allegedly anomalous utilization of his P15 million Priority Development Assistance Fund in 2005.
Specifically, Umali was charged with four counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and three counts of malversation together with Janet Lim Napoles, Department of Agriculture (DA) officials Renato Manantan (Regional Executive Director) and Narcisa Maningding (Accountant).
Umali, the Ombudsman claimed, facilitated the mishandling of his
P15 million PDAF intended for the acquisition of irrigation pumps and fertilizers. The agricultural implements were supposed to benefit his constituents in Laur, Gabaldon, Bongabon, Santa Rosa, General Natividad and Cabanatuan City.
Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 prohibits public officials from causing any undue injury to any party, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.
Also indicted by the Ombudsman were Anita Tansipek and Corazon Bautista, both from the Samahan ng mga Manininda ng Prutas sa Gabi, Inc.
Aside from the criminal indictment, Umali and Manantan were found guilty of Grave Misconduct, Gross Neglect of Duty and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service and were ordered dismissed from the service. They were also meted the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office and forfeiture of retirement of benefits. In case of separation from the government service, the penalty shall be convertible to a fine equivalent to respondents’ one year salary.
Records showed that Ombudsman investigators found out that in 2005, Umali identified and endorsed the Samahan and the Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation, Inc. (MAMFI) as NGO-partners. To implement the project, the DA downloaded
P12 million to MAMFI and P3 million to the Samahan.
Respondents made it appear that the funds were used to purchase 7,920 bottles of liquid fertilizers and 15 irrigation pumps.
During in-depth validation, however, Ombudsman field investigators found that “there was no real purchase at all since the liquid fertilizers had been sourced from another Napoles company, Nutrigrowth Philippines.” Similar findings of “ghost projects” were confirmed insofar as the alleged purchase of irrigation pumps.
Furthermore, the Office of the Ombudsman found out that the fund usage was riddled with irregularities such as the NGOs lack of credentials and track record to implement multi-million peso projects; absence of market survey and identification of product standards for the agricultural implements; absence of public bidding; usage of undated and unnumbered disbursement vouchers; and lack of delivery of irrigation pumps to the intended beneficiaries.
“To be able to divert substantial funds from the PDAF and the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Program funds, access had to be made available, and this was made possible by Umali who chose MAMFI and the Samahan to implement his livelihood projects,” stated the Resolution.
It also noted that, “Umali likewise signed the project proposals and indorsed said NGOs to facilitate the release of the funds to them.”
According to Ombudsman Morales, “the funds in question could not have been transferred to said NGOs if not for their certifications, approvals, signatures found in the disbursement vouchers and checks.”