Ex-solon threatens lawsuit over malversation rap

Posted at 06/23/2014 7:06 PM | Updated as of 06/23/2014 7:18 PM

MANILA - A former congressman on Monday said he is thinking of filing charges after he was slapped with a lawsuit over his alleged link to the multibillion-peso "pork barrel" scam in Congress.

Speaking to ANC, former Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino denied certifying a list of farmers who allegedly benefited from a P15 million livelihood project in Nueva Ecija's 4th District in 2007.

He said he is thinking of filing charges after his name was dragged in the pork barrel controversy.

"If I find basis to hold them accountable for damaging my reputation, I will go all out. This is a name to be protected that I inherited from my father and mother who were senators in the 60s with Ninoy Aquino. For them, to just come out to make pogi points...why issue a press release when there is still a preliminary investigation," he said.

Antonino's father, Gaudencio Antonino, was senator from 1961 to 1967 while his mother, Magnolia Welborn-Antonino, was senator from 1969 to 1972.

In the interview, Antonino said that during the audit process, the Commission on Audit sent him a letter asking him to certify as correct a list of project beneficiaries that received 7,275 livelihood kits distributed in Gapan City and the municipalities of San Isidro, General Tinio, Cabiao, Jaen, Peñaranda and San Leonardo.

"These were basically attachments on this particular project and when I looked at it - it was like black and white. It was not my signature. So I wrote the Commission on Audit. I wrote them on February 28 and I said categorically that my signatures were forged and I asked for COA for help because forgery of signatures is a crime," he said.

Antonino said the COA no longer replied after he sent a letter denying his signature in the documents. He questioned why the COA did not raise the matter in an exit conference, which is part of the audit process.

The former congressman said he usually allocated his PDAF to the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive Integrated Delivery of Social Service (KALAHI-CIDDS) project of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

He questioned the Ombudsman's decision to file a malversation case against him and several others, saying he could have explained the matter in advance.

"Para bang yung proseso ay hindi kami binibigyan ng pagkakataon para malinaw yan in the soonest possible time," he said.

"Ilabas na yan at bahala na si Congressman Antonino para mag explain...If they had come to me and asked for an explanation like in the COA case - the Ombudsman would have known it was not my certification," he said.

The Office of the Ombudsman on Monday filed a formal charge or complaint for Malversation of Public Funds and violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) against Antonino, former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap, and five others in connection with the alleged irregular allocation and utilization of the PDAF.

In a press statement, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said she motu proprio initiated a fact-finding investigation in response to news reports on the “pork barrel scam” exposé.

The first phase of investigation on Rep. Antonino covered his P15 million PDAF allocation to the DA for an Integrated Livelihood Project for the 4th district of Nueva Ecija, under Special Allotment Order (SARO) No. ROCS-07-02898.

Investigation unearthed that on February 14, 2007 or even prior to the actual transfer of funds to the DA, Rep. Antonino requested then DA Secretary Yap to transfer the funds to NABCOR even if NABCOR was not identified in the General Appropriations Act of 2007 as one of the implementing agencies of PDAF.

An Advice of Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) was issued on February 23, 2007 by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the DA which subsequently entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with NABCOR on March 7, 2007. A disbursement voucher in favor of NABCOR was issued on March 9, 2007, which facilitated payment on March 16, 2007 through a Landbank check dated March 14, 2007.

Two days prior to the March 7, 2007 MOA signed by DA Secretary Yap and NABCOR President Javellana, however, records show that NABCOR (through Javellana) already entered into a MOA with Buhay Mo Mahal Ko Foundation, Inc. (BMMKFI) through its president, Marilou Antonio, upon the request of Rep. Antonino, on the implementation of the project worth P14,550,000.00.

Records also show that Javellana approved the release of the first tranche of payment to BMMKFI without the signature of NABCOR accountant Roderica Bitancor who was supposed to certify that the supporting documents are complete and proper.

NABCOR received the first amount (90%) on March 21, 2007 through a UCPB check signed by Javellana and Mendoza, NABCOR Director for Financial Services.

It was discovered that BMMKFI exclusively procured from CC Barredo 7,275 sets of Livelihood Technology Kits (Volumes 1-1V) with a unit cost of P2,000 or a total of P14,550,000.00, as evidenced by Purchase Order No. 03-011-2007.

Investigators noticed, however, that CC Barredo made an offer to BMMKFI as early as February 14, 2007.

On March 23, 2007, CC Barredo purportedly delivered the kits to BMMKFI which reportedly delivered the same to Rep. Antonino. The remaining 10% of the project cost was thereafter released by NABCOR to the BMMKFI through a disbursement voucher dated April 24, 2007 signed by Munsod and Guanizo. After receiving the remaining amount (10%) on the same day through a UCPB check signed by Javellana and Mendoza, BMMKFI paid CC Barredo on April 30, 2007.

In its complaint, the Ombudsman said the project is non-existent based on on-site validation showing that a number of concerned city and municipal officials attested that their respective local government units did not receive the livelihood sets nor were there records relative thereto.

"Investigation found that neither the BMMKFI nor Rep. Antonino’s office submitted a list of actual beneficiaries or a detailed liquidation report. The BMMKFI Report indicated only the total number of kits without identifying the breakdown or names of beneficiaries," the Ombudsman said.