Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the dismissal from public service of Senator Emmanuel Joel Villanueva after find him liable for the misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel, in 2008, when he was representative of the CIBAC party-list.
Morales directed Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to implement the dismissal order on Villanueva, who topped the Senate race in the May 9 elections.
Aside from being sacked, Villanueva will also face trial before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court for two counts of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practice Act and one count each for malversation of public funds and malversation through the falsification of public documents, the Office of the Ombudsman said Monday.
In a statement shortly after the Ombudsman released its statement on his dismissal, Villanueva said: “I already filed a motion for reconsideration before the Ombudsman, and will leave it to the Senate President to act on the Ombudsman’s order.”
Pimentel, on the other hand, said he will refer the dismissal order on Villanueva to the Senate committee on rules, chaired by Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, as he did with on Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, who was ordered suspended for 90 days by the Ombudsman, a directive the Supreme Court upheld earlier this month.
Ejercito, who went on “forced vacation,” is facing trial for graft over the allegedly irregular purchase of firearms for San Juan City when he was mayor.
But Pimentel said he would act only after the Ombudsman rules on Villanueva’s motion for reconsideration.
“I was informed that a motion for reconsideration was filed. Hence, the Ombudsman must act on that first before I act on the communication of the Ombudsman to me, “ he said.
In a brief statement, Villanueva insisted on his contention that his signatures on documents related to the case were forged as were some of the documents, citing one that had a Buhay party-list letterhead. He also stressed that “the NBI has already made a conclusion that the signatures on the related documents were forged.”
Villanueva also said that, “as a minority congressman then, I did not receive that amount.”
“In any case, my faith is strong in the judicial system and in time, justice will be served,” he added.
Charged with Villanuva are former Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap, Villanueva’s staff Ronald Samonte, DA employee Delia Ladera, NABCOR (National Agri-business Corporation) representatives Alan Javellana, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Rhodora Mendoza, and Maria Ninez Guanizo; and Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc. president Alfredo Ronquillo.
The case stems from the release of P10 million from Villanueva’s pork barrel. It was the then congressman who requested Yap to release the funds to NABCOR as implementing agency and AFPI as the NGO-partner.
The money was supposed to purchase seedlings, liquid fertilizer and threshers from MJ Rickson Trading Corporation for beneficiaries in the towns of Pantukan, Nabunturan, Tambongon, Bongabong, Napnapan, Mipangi, Anislagan and Magsaysay in Compostela Valley province.
However, the investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman learned that:
· The localities were not suitable for farming as the vast majority of land is occupied by banana and coconut plantations
· Not a single name in the purported list of beneficiaries was a registered voter or resident of the providence
· Local officials attested and certified that no agri-based livelihood projects were implemented by AFPI
Documents also showed that AFPI had no financial capability to implement the P10-million project and that MJ Rickson’s business address on Martiniko Street, Malabon City was fictitious. Neither was the firm licensed by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority or registered with the Department of Trade and Industry.
Accomplishment, disbursement and acceptance reports as well as liquidation records were also found to be either fabricated or undated.
The irregularities prompted the Commission on Audit to issue a notice of disallowance on the project.
Although Villanueva claimed his signatures were forged, Morales noted that he himself “directly selected NABCOR and AFPI to implement his livelihood projects.”
And, citing Supreme Court jurisprudence, she stressed that “in a Congressional Pork Barrel System, it is the legislator who exercises actual control and custody of the PDAF share.”