20 lawmakers accused of malversation in new PDAF scam

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Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile (L), Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. (center), and TESDA Secretary Joel Villanueva (R) were among the 20 incumbent and former lawmakers named as respondents in a new pork barrel scam complaint.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A new case filed on Wednesday (September 2) before the Ombudsman accused 20 lawmakers of malversation for channeling around P500 million of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) — different from those operated by alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Napoles.

The complaint was filed by Atty. Levito Baligod, former lawyer of Benhur Luy and Merlina Suñas, whistleblowers of the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

He said that he opted to file a malversation complaint as it is easier to prove.

"Yung malversation madaling ipakita. Involved ba na pondo ay public fund? Pangalawa nawaldas ba ito? At pangatlo, totoo ba yung liquidation documents na sinumite? At madaling i-prove na na-falsify ang mga ito," Baligod said.

Related: CNN Philippines Investigates: Pork scams beyond Napoles (Part 1)

Respondents were a mix of both incumbent and former lawmakers, which include:

  • Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.
  • Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile
  • Rep. Niel Tupas
  • Rep. Carol Lopez
  • Rep. Edgar San Luis
  • Rep. Arturo Robes
  • Rep. Rodolfo Antonino
  • Rep. Julio Ledesma IV
  • Former Sen. Edgardo Angara
  • Former House Speaker Prospero Nograles
  • Former Rep. Joseph Santiago
  • Former Rep. Roberto Cajes
  • Former Rep. Florencio Miraflores
  • Former Rep. Reno Lim
  • Former Rep. Maria Arago
  • Former Rep. Rachel Arenas
  • Former Rep. Marina Clarete
  • Rep. Francis Bichara
  • TESDA Secretary Joel Villanueva (former CIBAC Partylist representative)
  • Gov. Alfonso Umali Jr. (former Oriental Mindoro representative)

How money was funneled to fake NGOs

Baligod also named private individuals as respondents, including a certain Marilou Antonio and Nancy Catamco.

The private individuals were accused of operating the scam by transacting with lawmakers to divert their pork barrel to the fake NGOs in exchange for kickbacks — similar to the modus operandi of Napoles.

According to Baligod, those behind the scam had Commission on Audit (COA) officials “in their pockets” who received bribes, such as brand new cars, for clearing the projects even without proper documents.

He explained that the state-owned National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) served as the implementing agency used to divert the pork barrel funds from 2007 to 2009.

"So paano ito pumasa sa COA? Ang allegation natin nakipagsabwatan yung COA because some officials of COA received favors from NABCOR officials... halimbawa niregaluhan ng brand new na sasakyan," Baligod said.

Submitted as evidence were the checks allegedly issued by then NABCOR President Allan Javellana. Baligod said the checks were issued even if they lacked the necessary signatures of subordinate officials.

Former NABCOR officials Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Roman Cacal, who were respondents in pork barrel scam cases being heard before the Sandiganbayan, were witnesses in Baligod's complaint.

Forged signatures

Villanueva, who was among the respondents, denied his involvement in any PDAF scam, saying tests by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) proved that his signatures were forged.

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) secretary, who was said to have plans of running for Senate, admitted that the allegations against him could affect his membership in the Liberal Party.

He said that it would be difficult to remain in a slate where members regard him as a criminal. But he added that he is still undecided if he will run as senator in 2016.

Two other accused in the case, Reps. Tupas and Lopez also dismissed involvement in the scam.

“I had already done steps to clear myself before the COA,” Lopez said. “I maintain my position of innocence and that can be clearly proven should it come to court.”

Similar to Villanueva, both Lopez and Tupas also allege that the NGOs involved in the scam faked their signatures.

“The fact is I was the one who informed and alerted COA, in a series of letters to them way back in 2010, when it came to my attention that my signature was being forged to facilitate release of funds from PDAF,” Tupas said.

He said that he asked COA to withhold the release of any fund under his pork barrel after he found out about the forging.

Baligod said people who had personal knowledge of the scam, such as the former staff of lawmakers involved and project beneficiaries, whose signatures were forged, are willing to testify in the case.

CNN Philippines' AC Nicholls and Patricia de Leon contributed to this report.