Tuesday, 25 July 2017
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Ombudsman indicts former Nueva Ecija congressman for 15M PDAF scam

Quezon City —  The former representative of the 3rd district of Nueva Ecija is in hot water after Ombudsman investigators found him and four others liable for the anomalous utilization of his 2005 Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).  A former governor of Nueva Ecija, Aurelio Umali facilitated the mishandling of his P15million 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.
            In a 38-page Resolution, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered the filing of Information for four counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019) and three counts of Malversation against Umali, Janet Lim Napoles, Department of Agriculture (DA) officials Renato Manantan (Regional Executive Director) and Narcisa Maningding (Accountant).  Also indicted are Anita Tansipek and Corazon Bautista, both from the Samahan ng mga Manininda ng Prutas sa Gabi, Inc.
            Aside from 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 have also meted the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office and forfeiture of a retirement of benefits.  In the case of separation from the government service, the penalty shall be convertible to a fine equivalent to respondents’ one year salary.
            Ombudsman investigators found 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 P12million to MAMFI and P3million 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.
            The Office of the Ombudsman found 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 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.”
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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