BAGUIO CITY – Some 74 non-government organizations (NGOs) and dozens of lawmakers are set to be charged with malversation of public funds by anti-graft crusaders for having been linked to the multi-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam that resulted in tens of billions of misused taxpayers money over the past several years.
Lawyer Levito Baligud, an anti-graft crusader and former legal counsel of PDAF whistle-blower Benhur Luy, said they are still evaluating what branch of government to file the battery of malversation charges considering that the justice department was not able to fulfil its commitment to file the same charges against the third batch of respondents, including allies of the Aquino administration, for over a year now contrary to its earlier commitment to immediately file the cases against them.
Further, Baligud pointed out in the case of the Ombudsman, they have doubts on the carrying capacity of the said office considering that they were only able to file charges against three senators and five lawmakers over a 2-year period of handling the plunder and malversation charges against the involved public officials.
“Most likely, we will file the malversation charges against the 74 NGOs and the dozens of involved lawmakers before the Senate blue-ribbon committee because the said body has the subpoena power and the distinct power to recommend to the Umbudsman the filing of the charges against the involved public officials,” Baligud stressed.
He disclosed they were only able to account for around P2.9 billion of funds lodged with the National Agri-business Corporation (NABCOR), P5.4 billion with the Technology Resource Center (TRC) while accounting and auditing procedures are still being done on the billions of funds coursed through the National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC).
He said the filing of the malversation charges against the 74 NGOs is part of a massive cleansing move to rid the NGO sector with erring groups that are simply being used as conduits to misuse public funds at the expense of the supposed beneficiaries and to restore the integrity of NGOs as groups that extend assistance to those who are in need of financial and technical aid.
Baligud explained government was only able to file plunder and malversation charges against only 8 NGOs that are directly linked with PDAF scam mastermind and businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles but have forgotten the involvement of the 74 NGOs to the similar charges with the involvement of much bigger public fund.
In a 2012 special audit conducted by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the PDAF, it was able to uncover the involvement of some 82 NGOs that were used as conduits of the pork barrel funds of lawmakers that were supposed to be given out to farmers but turned out to have been misused and allegedly pocketed by the lawmakers who identified the involved NGOs as their conduits for the release of the funds.
Baligud claimed it seems that the government concentrated its actions against the 8 Napoles NGOs and nearly forgot the involvement of other non-Napoles NGOs to the malversation charges that involves much bigger public funds and more public officials.
He disclosed based on their initial investigation, there were 47 lawmakers who were directly involved in the PDAF scam involving over P30 to P40 billion in public funds but it seems the Napoles NGOs and the 8 lawmakers are just the ones charged before the concerned bodies.
Baligud asserted the failure of the justice department to file the necessary charges against the third batch of lawmakers involved in the celebrated PDAF scam casts doubts on the fulfilment of the anti-graft and corruption program of the Aquino administration.
The lawyer challenged the justice department to be fair to everyone by filing the plunder or malversation charges against the third batch of lawmakers that seemingly include allies of the Aquino administration considering that the charges had been pending with the agency for over a year now.
He reminded members of the Senate blue-ribbon committee to wisely and sincerely use their powers to investigate the 74 NGOs that are set to be charged before the committee and not to use the investigation for their respective political agenda because the people are closely watching their actuations and would result to either their being re-elected or junked in next year’s synchronized national elections.
Baligud said the NABCOR, TRC and NLDC were the primary government agencies that were used by the erring NGOs and the lawmakers in the release of the funds purposely for the farmers but eventually ended out in the pockets of the sponsoring lawmakers.
By Dexter A. See