MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday urged former Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos to return to the Philippines and face cases lodged against him for his alleged role in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam after the latter went into hiding abroad.
Relampagos, who is facing 300 counts of graft and malversation charges in connection with the "pork barrel" scam, was allowed by the Sandiganbayan to go to the United States on Dec. 2 last year but has failed to return.
The court said Relampagos’ failure to return last Jan. 1 meant that he is already a fugitive.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reminded Relampagos that flight is an “evidence of guilt,” adding that the government could find ways to bring him back to the Philippines so he could face his multiple cases.
“Kung ikaw ay inosente, bumalik ka at linawin mo ang iyong pangalan. Pero ang mga tumatakbo ay usually umaamin na sila ay guilty,” Roque said in a news conference.
“Ikanta lang naman niya kung ano talaga ang nangyari doon sa nakaraang administrasyon, at titingnan naman natin kung mayroong mga pamamaraan na mabawasan ang kaniyang pananagutan.”
Relampagos’ lawyers had told the court that their client decided not to return because of the overwhelming burden his cases have brought upon him.
The court has ordered the cancellation of Relampagos’ passport and forfeited his P70,000 travel bond.
Relampagos is a co-accused in numerous pork barrel scam cases filed against several lawmakers, including former Senators Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.
He was charged for having signed documents that resulted in the release of pork barrel funds to bogus non-government organizations.
Aside from the pork barrel scam cases, Relampagos has also been implicated in the P900-million Malampaya fund scam, where proceeds from the gas project meant for relief and rehabilitation in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Ondoy and Typhoon Pepeng in 2009 went to ghost projects of bogus NGOs created by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.