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Ex-Maguindanao lawmaker charged for P3.8M PDAF scam

Simeon Datumanog
Simeon Datumanog

Quezon City — The Office of the Ombudsman is not letting up on its investigation into the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.  Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the filing of two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) against former 2nd district Representative Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao.

Also ordered charged were officials of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF); namely, Commissioner Mehol Sadain, Fedelina Aldanese, Aurora Aragon-Mabang, Olga Galido, Queenie Rodriguez, Galay Makalinggan (one count) and Gracita Cecilia Mascenon-Sales of Maharlika Lipi Foundation, Inc. (MLFI).
In-depth investigation uncovered that in May 2012, the Department of Budget and Management issued a Special Allotment Release Order covering P3,800,000.00 in favor of NCMF, as implementing agency, charged against Datumanong’s PDAF.  The money was intended to finance livelihood programs such as soap making, candle making and meat processing for the municipalities of Mamasapano, Ampatuan and Datu Abdullah Sanki. 
To facilitate the fund utilization, Datumanong requested that the P3.8million be coursed through the Maharlikang Lipi Foundation, Inc, as NGO-partner.
 Upon audit, the Commission on Audit found that the selection of the NGO was undertaken in violation of COA Circular No. 2007-01 noting the absence of public bidding in the NGO-selection process.
For his defense, respondent claimed that “the Ombudsman should await the final determination of the COA on whether the funds were mismanaged.”  Datumanong also insisted that his signatures in the documents were forged.
In its Resolution of 08 December 2016, Ombudsman Morales ruled that “the Office of the Ombudsman has been granted virtually plenary investigatory powers by the Constitution and by law and it may, for every particular investigation, decide how best to pursue each investigation.” She added that “the findings of the COA report, or the finality or lack of finality of such report, are irrelevant to the investigation to determine the existence of probable cause.”
To support the charges, the Ombudsman said that there was “extraordinary accommodation extended to MLFI in the examination, processing and approval by the concerned NCMF officers of the PDAF releases as show by the unnumbered and undated disbursement vouchers; and issuance of check prior to execution of the Memorandum of Agreement.”
Contrary to the lawmaker’s claim, Ombudsman Morales stated that “the truth is, Datumanong was aware that, under the Pork Barrel System, legislators exercised post-enactment authority and they were considered to have custody and control of the PDAF-funded projects.” She cited Supreme Court jurisprudence and emphasized that “under the Congressional Pork Barrel System, it is the legislator that exercises actual control and custody of the PDAF share allocated to him by appropriations statute.”
           
This is the second set of PDAF charges filed against Sadain. In September 2016, Sadain was charged alongside Senator Gregorio Honasan II for the anomalous utilization of Honasan’s P30million PDAF.   
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

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