Ex-Northern Samar Rep. Ong indicted over P62M pork barrel misuse

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The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to indict former Northern Samar Rep. Emil Ong and 24 others before the Sandiganbayan for the alleged misuse of his pork barrel in 2007 to 2009 amounting to P62 million.

In a resolution released today, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the filing against Ong of 19 counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019), 12 counts of malversation thru falsification of public documents, and seven counts of malversation.

His co-accused in the corruption charges are Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) officials, former Secretary Esperanza Cabral, Undersecretary Luwalhati Pablo, Assistant Secretary Mateo Montaño, Director Deseree Fajardo, staff members Joselita Enciso and Leonila Hayahay.

Also facing charges are representatives of implementing agencies (IA), National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) Gondelina Amata, Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Chita Jalandoni, Gregoria Buenaventura, Ofelia Ordoñez, Sofia Cruz and Filipina Rodriguez; National Agri-Business Corporation (NABCOR) Alan Javellana, Rhodora Mendoza, Victor Roman Cacal, Maria Ninez Guañizo and Romulo Relevo; NGO representatives, Roberto Solon of the Economic and Social Cooperation for Local Development Foundation, Inc. (ECOSOC), Margie Luz and Ma. Cristina Vizcarra of Gabaymasa Development Foundation, Inc. (GDFI), Rowena Adriano and Nestor Serdeña of Interactive Training Opportunity Needs Alleviations Movement, Inc. (ITONAMI). Also included as co-accused is Ong’s representative Jesus Acebuche.

According to the in-depth investigation and actual field verification, Ong received a total P62 million as part of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) from October 2007 to November 2009.

The multi-million peso funds were supposed to benefit the people of the 2nd district of Northern Samar in the form of livelihood capital assistance and agricultural assistance. Ong had earlier requested the DSWD, NABCOR and NLDC to act as IAs with ECOSOC, GDFI and ITONAMI as NGO project-implementers.

The Ombudsman, however, found the projects turned out to be non-existent or “ghost projects” facilitated by Ong and his cohorts.

Local officials in the district attested that “they were not even aware of the projects” and that “they denied receiving anything from the office of Ong or any of the project partners.”

As part of the cover-up, the Ombudsman said that respondents submitted fake documents to support the liquidation such as project reports, distributions lists of beneficiaries, receipts, certificates of acceptance and inspection.

However, Ombudsman investigators also ascertained that the alleged suppliers denied transacting with respondents, while others were not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission or with the Department of Trade and Industry.

“Worse, the Bureau of Internal Revenue has no records of any tax returns, tax clearances, audited financial statements and/or financial reports of any of the NGOs or alleged suppliers. Neither was there any public bidding conducted for the procurement of farm implements and livelihood projects,” the Ombudsman said in a statement.

Ong failed to file any counter-affidavit despite filing several motions of extension of time.

According to Morales, “despite this irregularity, Ong endorsed these NGOs as the project implementers. He entered into MOAs with the IAs and the NGOs, approved the project proposals, and thereafter, continuously sought the release of the funds in the NGO’s favor. His representative, Acebuche, assisted him in perpetrating the fraud by signing a certificate of acceptance in his behalf.”

The Resolution added that “to be able to repeatedly divert substantial funds from the PDAF, access thereto must be made available, and this was made possible by Ong who indorsed ECOSOC, GDFI and ITONAMI to implement his PDAF-related undertakings. Ong sent or caused the sending of the requisite indorsement letters and similar documentation to DBM, DSWD, NABCOR and NLDC, acts which were necessary to ensure that the preferred NGOs would be awarded the project.”

In the related administrative case, the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal from the service of Pablo, Montaño, Fajardo, Enciso, Amata, Jalandoni, Sevidal, Buenaventura, Ordoñez, Cruz and Rodriguez for being guilty of Grave Misconduct, Serious Dishonesty and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service and were meted the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility and forfeiture of retirement benefits.