Ombudsman orders dismissal of Senator Joel Villanueva


Ombudsman orders Joel Villanueva’s dismissal over P10-M pork barrel scam by Xianne Arcangel, GMA News

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the dismissal from service of Senator Joel Villanueva after finding him guilty of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the interest of service over his alleged involvement in a P10-million pork barrel scam as a party-list lawmaker.

The dismissal order against Villanueva was approved after the Ombudsman found him and nine others liable for the supposed misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation in 2008 as the congressional representative of CIBAC party-list.

The senator 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 or Republic Act No. 3019, one count each for malversation of public funds and malversation through falsification of public documents.

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Also included in the charge sheet are former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary and now Bohol Rep. 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.

The charges against Villanueva stemmed from the supposed irregularities that the Ombudsman found regarding the utilization of the P10-M PDAF allocation that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released on June 10, 2008 for the implementation of agri-based livelihood projects in various congressional districts in Region XI.

Villanueva asked Yap to release his PDAF allocation to National Agri-business Corporation (NABCOR) as the implementing agency for the project, with AFPI. A memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed by Yap and NABCOR on June 19, 2008.

After the MOA was signed, Villanueva’s PDAF allocation was spent on 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.

The Ombudsman’s investigation, however, showed not a single name on the purported list of beneficiaries was a registered voter or resident of the province where the project was supposedly implemented. Local officials also certified to the absence of any agri-based livelihood projects implemented by AFPI.

Furthermore, the Ombudsman found that the localities chosen for the project were not suitable for farming as the vast majority of land is occupied by banana and coconut plantations.

Documents obtained by graft investigators showed AFPI had no financial capability to implement the P10-million project since its capital stock was only P68,000.

MJ Rickson, the supplier of the seeds and other farming materials, 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.

To show his P10-million PDAF was utilized, Villanueva and his co-respondents supposedly submitted fabricated and undated documents such as Accomplishment Reports, Disbursement Reports, Acceptance Reports, and liquidation documents.

However, the COA found several irregularities in the project that it issued a notice of disallowance on it in 2014.

]“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 said in a statement.

He said the order was based on an “old case” and that the signatures on the documents were forged, which has been proven by the National Bureau of Investigation.

But Morales said that under the congressional pork barrel system, “it is the legislator who exercises actual control and custody of the PDAF share.”

She said Villanueva and his co-respondents disregarded laws and regulations by selecting NABCOR and AFPI to implement the livelihood projects.

NABCOR officials were likewise scored for accepting and accommodating Villanueva by facilitating the processing and approval of the PDAF releases.

“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,” Morales said. — ALG/RSJ, GMA News

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