Ex-COA official returns to Sandiganbayan, says PDAF scam NGO offices 'mere shanty'

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 20 2023 06:40 PM

MANILA — Former Commission on Audit assistant commissioner Susan Garcia returned to the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division Thursday to testify in the graft cases of former senator and now Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile.

Garcia is already retired from the commission where she served as the director of the Special Audit Office that was tasked to conduct special audits on lawmakers involved in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

Her direct testimony, done through video conferencing, was short as she only identified her judicial affidavit but made corrections before the court.

She said she will have to replace her answer in one of the questions in her affidavit on details of non-government organizations involved in the cases.

“There were only 2 NGO’s endorsed by the office of senator Enrile to TRC, CARED Foundation Inc. and APFMI, the declared address of CARED, upon inspection by the team is a mere shanty, occupied by the mother of one of the incorporators, CARED and APFMI are using the same authority to their official receipt which is irregular,” Garcia said.

The prosecution had insisted that bogus non-government organizations linked to former businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles were involved in non-existent agricultural projects using the PDAF of lawmakers.

While still in government service, Garcia testified at the Sandiganbayan during bail hearings of lawmakers and other individuals accused of misusing government funds.

Before the direct testimony of Garcia, almost all of the defense counsels present in court manifested that they did not receive their copies of the judicial affidavit of Garcia, a standard operating procedure during court proceedings.

The prosecution however insisted that hard copies, as well as soft copies, were sent to the law offices of the defense counsels, providing the court with a list of acknowledgment receipts.

Referring to folders of documents about a foot thick, Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez joked about the non-receipt of the defense counsels of their copies of affidavits.

“Pag hindi niyo pa nakita to sa law office niyo ewan ko na lang,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez however said in the end that the defense will be given the benefit of the doubt as he also gave them a stern reminder.

“They did not even manifest during the last hearing your honor that hard copies were already furnished,” defense counsel Atty. Francisco Muñez said.

“Atty. Muñez, it is not the burden of the prosecution to tell you that they have sent a copy, what is important is they sent a copy, and there was a received copy from your office, that is the important thing,” Fernandez said.

Because the defense lawyers did not have advance copies of the judicial affidavit of Garcia, the cross-examination was rescheduled to April 25.