JPE argues case before Ombudsman

by Marvin Sy, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 16 2014 11:40 AM | Updated as of Mar 16 2014 07:40 PM

MANILA - Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile denied any liability in the pork barrel scam, saying he never endorsed any spurious non-government organizations to implement projects from his pork barrel funds.

Enrile also denied any kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) projects.

Enrile submitted a 69-page counter-affidavit (inclusive of annexes) before the Office of the Ombudsman, which is investigating him for plunder.

He denounced the allegations made against him by the National Bureau of Investigation, lawyer Levito Baligod and the Field Investigation Office (FIO) of the ombudsman as being “absolutely baseless.”

Enrile stated that in his 47 years of service in government, he has never been charged in court with any criminal corruption or even plunder.

“Sadly, it is only now in the twilight years of my government service, that I stand accused of trumped up charges of corruption before the ombudsman, in connection with the implementation of the Priority Development Assistance Fund allegedly during the years 2004-2010,” Enrile said in his counter-affidavit.

Enrile repeatedly stated the government implementing agencies are ultimately responsible for any irregularity arising from the implementation of the PDAF-funded projects of legislators.

Enrile argued legislators play a limited role in the use of the PDAF since they have no access to these funds and in his case, all he did was to endorse specific projects to local government units.

“Any irregularity or unlawful act that may have been committed in the implementation of the projects is the sole responsibility of the implementing agencies and whoever conspired with them,” he said.

“It is the implementing agency’s obligation to verify the existence of and monitor the release, use and liquidation of the funds to the NGO. That the NGO is bogus or that there are irregularities in the implementation of the project is the principal responsibility of the implementing agency.”

Enrile said the implementing government agencies could not simply escape obligation by requiring him or anyone in his office to sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) so that it would appear that his office shares this responsibility with them.

In these MOAs, Enrile noted the implementing government agencies made it appear the legislators shared the obligation of monitoring and supervising the projects undertaken by the NGOs.

“The law itself does not prescribe the participation of my office in the execution of such MOA or in the implementation of the project,” he said.

Moreover, Enrile noted the “extensive, large-scale forgery employed by the whistle-blowers put to doubt the authenticity of these MOAs.”

He cited the admission of the whistle-blowers, all former employees of Napoles led by Benhur Luy, that they were responsible for forging various documents pertinent to the PDAF projects.

Enrile maintained his office was not responsible for choosing or in any way dealing with the NGOs that may be used by the implementing government agencies as conduits in the use of his PDAF.

In fact, he said the Commission on Audit, in its special audit report on the use of the PDAF from 2007 to 2009, highlighted how the implementing government agencies were remiss in their obligations in dealing with the NGOs.

In particular, the COA noted the implementing agencies failed to ascertain the legitimacy and capability of the NGOs to implement the project during the selection process.

The COA observed the implementing government agencies kept on releasing funds without proper accounting and liquidation.

Aside from his endorsement of an LGU project to an implementing agency, Enrile said the only other action he did in connection with such projects was to authorize his staff to sign pertinent documents as may be required relative to any specific project endorsements “in order that the endorsed projects may be properly and timely acted upon by the agencies concerned but always subject to pertinent government accounting and auditing rules and regulations.”