Another ₱1-Billion PDAF pork barrel scam being investigated linked to Roque, Not with Napoles

Photo: philSTAR

The government will investigate another Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam involving P1 billion and allegedly perpetrated by non-government organizations linked to businessman Godofredo Roque, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima bared yesterday.

De Lima said a task force under the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council (IAAGCC) will be assigned to investigate the charges against Roque by labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP).

"I think Mr. Roque, along with others who also operated their NGOs in amassing PDAF, will be covered by the investigation of the inter-agency task force," De Lima said.

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The task force would be composed of representatives of the Department of Justice (DOJ), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Office of the Ombudsman, and Commission on Audit (COA).

De Lima said Roque's case would be treated separately from that of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, which has been the focus of the NBI probe.

"As I have said many times, the coverage of the NBI probe is only Napoles, particularly NGOs related to her and therefore within the knowledge of our whistle-blowers," she added.

The NBI has filed two batches of corruption cases against Napoles and several lawmakers linked to her before the Office of the Ombudsman.

"We continue to build up cases on those within the knowledge of our whistle-blowers but are not supported yet with documentary evidence either from DBM (Department of Budget and Management) or COA," De Lima said.

As to Roque's case, the DOJ chief said the probe duties would be up to the IAAGCC task force.

"The main mandate of the task force is to make independent evaluation of and build up cases from the COA special audit report not covered by the NBI investigation," she said.

The probe is pursuant to the Supreme Court (SC) order last month for the government to "investigate and prosecute all government officials and/or private individuals for possible criminal offenses related to the irregular, improper and/or unlawful disbursement of all funds under the pork barrel system," she added.

De Lima also bared that the IAAGCC probe would include lawmakers mentioned in the COA report, but were not investigated by the NBI since they had no links with Napoles.

The BMP, in its letter-request for investigation, had linked an ally of President Aquino, Iloilo fifth district Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., to Roque's scheme.

"Rep. Tupas himself admitted that he signed the documents naming the NGOs of Godofredo Roque as beneficiaries under his special allocation release order (SARO)," BMP alleged.

BMP national president Leody de Guzman alleged that Tupas gave P17.49 million of his PDAF for the projects of National Agribusiness Corp. (NABCOR) and the National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC).

De Guzman said the funds went to Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc. (KKAMFI), an NGO which was allegedly endorsed by Tupas to NABCOR and NLDC.

KKAMFI is supposedly an NGO of Roque, who was able to amass around P1 billion in PDAF based on reports.

"Even if these politicians are allies of the President, your office should not tolerate their questionable acts. We are hoping that your agency will conduct a thorough investigation on the matter and that they would be made answerable before the court the soonest possible time," BMP said.

SC again asked to stop DAP

As this developed, the Supreme Court was again asked yesterday to stop the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of President Aquino.

One of the nine petitioners, former Iloilo Rep. and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority head Augusto Syjuco Jr., reiterated his motion for issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) as the SC goes into its yearend recess next week and with just days left in the government's fiscal year.

In a nutshell, petitioners alleged that the discretionary fund of the President violates the exclusive power of Congress to appropriate funds, just like in the case of the PDAF.

In his 16-page reiterated second motion, Syjuco argued that the people would suffer irreparable harm if Malacañang would be allowed to continue using its remaining DAP funds for this year pending legal questions before the SC.

"All facts considered, the petitioner in behalf of all the taxpayers shall suffer imminent and irreparable harm if the respondents are not enjoined from continuously realigning and spending government funds from the DAP despite its constitutional infirmities," Syjuco said.

"Undisputed is the fact that the DAP was created not by virtue of any law. Rather, it is a mere unilateral act of the President. Government funds have been continuously emptied out from the government coffers without any valid and existing law that sanctions its allocations and disbursements," he added.

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This is the third time Syjuco pleaded for a TRO against the DAP.

Earlier, the SC deferred ruling on the prayer for immediate relief and instead set the case for oral arguments.

The first oral argument was held last Nov. 19 with the counsels of Syjuco and eight other petitioners arguing how the DAP violates the Constitution.

The second oral argument, originally set last Dec. 10, was deferred to Jan. 28, 2014 when the executive and legislative branches would have their turn to justify the legality of the DAP.

The postponement of oral arguments, a court insider said, could mean that the Palace would no longer be restrained from using its DAP funds for this year. - philSTAR

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