Negligence no excuse for 'pork scam' solons: lawyer
MANILA - Negligence is no excuse for senators and congressmen who gave their pork barrel funds to fake non-government organizations, a lawyer said Wednesday.
In a radio interview, lawyer Romulo Macalintal said a lawmaker found guilty of allocating pork barrel funds to a fake NGO could still be charged with the crime of malversation of public funds through abandonment or negligence under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.
"Plunder isn't the only way a lawmaker can waste taxpayers' money. It can also be done by neglecting to safeguard public funds," he told radio dzMM.
Macalintal said malversation of P22,000 in public funds is considered a non-bailable offense punishable by life imprisonment. He said lawmakers could go to jail while the case is ongoing unless granted bail by a court if the evidence of guilt is not strong.
He pointed out the experience of Jinggoy Estrada who was charged with plunder but allowed to go free on bail because of the evidence. Estrada was later acquitted in the plunder case.
The lawyer said senators and congressmen could also face plunder raps if it is proven that the lawmaker accumulated at least P50 million in public funds through a series of actions.
Macalintal said private individuals as well as officials of the Department of Budget and Management and the Commission on Audit could also face charges if proven that they connived with public officials in the misuse of public funds.
He said NGOs that receive pork barrel funds should liquidate earlier fund releases before they can receive more allocations.
He also questioned the practice of some lawmakers of using up all their pork barrel funds because of fear that they will get a smaller budget the following year if they have excess funds.
Several lawmakers have been implicated in an alleged P10 billion pork barrel scam involving fake NGOs set up by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.