MANILA - The Office of Ombudsman has found probable cause to charge former Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Simeon Datumanong with graft for his alleged misuse of discretionary funds or "pork barrel."
Also charged were officials of the National Council for Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Mehol Sadain, commissioner; Galay Makalinggan, director; Fedelina Alsanese, acting chief accountant; Aurora Aragon-Mabang, acting chief; Olga Galido, cashier; and Queenie Rodriguez, project manager and assistant treasurer.
Gracita Mascenon-Sales, president of non-government organization (NGO) Maharlikang Lipi Foundation, Inc. (MLFI), was also implicated in the complaint.
Datumanong is accused of allocating P3.8 million in priority development assistance funds (PDAF) to finance livelihood projects in Ampatuan, Datu Abdullah Sanki and Mamasapano towns in Maguindanao, an Ombudsman investigation revealed. The money was supposed to be used for soap-making, candle-making and meat processing projects.
NCMF was the implementing agency and MLFI was the private sector partner.
The Ombudsman said Datumanong broke the law after designating MLFI without public bidding and authorization by any appropriation law or ordinance. He even endorsed the MLFI to the NCMF.
The NCMF then declared MLFI legitimate and capable for the project and facilitated the release of funds without competitive bidding.
Datumanong, however, claimed that his signatures were forged. He also said the Ombudsman should wait for the final report of the Commission on Audit to verify if the funds were misused.
But the Ombudsman reiterated that the findings in the COA report are irrelevant to its investigation in determining probable cause. The Ombudsman also pointed out that Datumanong was "aware that, under the Pork Barrel System, legislators exercised post-enactment authority and they were considered to have custody and control of the PDAF funded projects."