A LIBERAL Party stalwart who is among the lawmakers who vigorously prosecuted the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial due to his questionable filing of his Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net worth has been charged with graft before the Sandiganbayan.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Thursday ordered the filing of multiple charges against former Iloilo Representative Niel “Jun-jun” Tupas before the anti-graft court for his alleged involvement in the anomalous utilization of his P4.8 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for 2008.
Specifically, Tupas is set to be prosecuted for alleged two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 (the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), a count of Malversation and another count of malversation through falsification of public documents.
Also included in the charge sheet are Alan Javellana, Rhodora Mendoza, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, all from the National Agri-Business Corporation (NABCOR) and Marilou Antonio, project coordinator of the Kabuhayan at Kalusugang Alay sa Masa Foundation, Inc. (KKAMFI).
Ombudsman records showed that in a letter dated May 15, 2008 Tupas requested the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the transfer of P5 million to the NABCOR for the implementation of his PDAF-funded projects. The funds were supposed to buy hand tractors, water pumps and grafted fruit seedlings. As NGO-partner, Tupas recommended KKAMFI as project implementor.
During its field investigation, the Ombudsman found that Tupas implemented “ghost projects” as mayors from the six municipalities of Ajuy, Batad, Estancia, Lemery, San Rafael and Sara denied receiving any of the farm implements. The Ombudsman investigators also found that the liquidation documents submitted by respondents were all fabricated, with Tupas himself signing the alleged list of beneficiaries of equipment and seedlings from his district.
In its Resolution, the Ombudsman highlighted that “to be able to repeatedly release substantial funds from the PDAF, access thereto must be made available, and this was made possible by Tupas, Jr. who directly chose and endorsed his own NGO to implement his PDAF-related projects. Tupas, Jr. himself issued the requisite indorsement letters and similar documentation addressed to the DA and NABCOR, acts which were necessary to ensure that the chosen NGO would be awarded the project.”
“The evident misuse of the PDAF allocations through fictitious or non-existent projects should render respondents liable for Malversation” stated Ombudsman Morales.
She added that, “this Office is convinced that they conspired with one another in this nefarious scheme to misappropriate public funds drawn from Tupas, Jr.’s PDAF.”
Meanwhile, Tupas, expressed surprise over his indictment.
In a statement, Tupas said he was “very surprised” by the Ombudsman’s resolution, since he was very careful in informing the Commission on Audit (COA) and other concerned government agencies about the spurious documents that contained his signature.
“I was the one who alerted COA and I asked the government agency concerned to withhold the release of funds (some of the funds were in fact returned to the national treasury as a result of my letter complaint),” he said.
“I also wrote the Ombudsman informing the office of our discovery of spurious documents that were used to facilitate the release of funds. I will ask my lawyers to file a motion for reconsideration (MR) and I hope the Ombudsman will see the light.”