Court defers arraignment of PDAF accused ex-solon
MANILA, Philippines – Former Cagayan de Oro Rep Constantino Jaraula will enter his plea at a later time before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan First Division over cases related to the multi-million-peso diversion of government funds to bogus foundations.
The court deferred his scheduled arraignment on Thursday, March 12, to first resolve his impending motion to have the charges quashed or, as an alternative, be reinvestigated by the Ombudsman.
Jaraula is charged with malversation, 3 counts of graft and 3 counts of direct bribery for misusing P50.5 million ($1.14 million)* in his discretionary funds or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) from 2004 to 2007.
From the said misused amount, he allegedly took for himself as rebates P20.8 million ($468,896)*.
The amount was supposed to fund livelihood and development projects in rural communities but were siphoned off in the form of kickbacks for those involved in the PDAF scam.
As his malversation case was based on the lack of bidding, he argued in his motion that the choice of his PDAF's NGO-recipients and the bidding process are the responsibility of the state implementing agency (IA) and not the lawmaker.
"The most a lawmaker can do was to 'request' or 'suggest,' both of which could be denied by the IA," his motion read.
He alleged that his signatures in some documents were forged without his consent.
Nonetheless, he said signing documents for the release of his PDAF is not unlawful and was part of his job as congressman then. He dismissed the allegation of receiving kickbacks.
Prosecutor Joefferson Toribio told reporters Thursday that Jaraula is among the lawmakers who directly transacted with alleged scam mastermind Janet Napoles, unlike those who used a bagman.
This is based on sworn affidavits of whistleblower Benhur Luy, who used to work as Napoles' financial officer.
Luy alleged that Napoles controlled the non-governmental organizations which became unlawful recipients of lawmakers' PDAF coursed through government implementing agencies such as regional field units and state firms.
The Napoles NGOs would then fake state projects by forging signatures of individual-beneficiaries and submitting falsified documentary proof.
Luy had revealed the fund diversion scheme to authorities, testifying against Napoles and dozens of lawmakers in the country's biggest corruption scandal in recent history.
His revelation ignited public clamor for greater transparency in the use of government funds, with the PDAF subsequently abolished by the Supreme Court.
In his motion, Jaraula explained that a lawmaker's PDAF releases are all coursed through the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations.
Lawmakers were informed of such disbursements by the committee, he said.
While he submitted a list of projects he boasted to his constituents during flag ceremonies in his province, Jaraula said in an affidavit before the Ombudsman that the implementing agencies never delivered on the said projects.
These include additional ambulances with dental chairs and machines, fire trucks, mechanical dryers, farm implements, and hand pumps.
He added that he had sensed early on irregularities at the level of the implementing agencies.
The following Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs), which facilitate fund releases, show the alleged misused funds from Jaraula's PDAF and the corresponding implementing agencies they were coursed through:
|SARO No.||Amount||Date||Implementing Agency|
|P5 million||December 14, 2004||
Department of Agriculture - Regional Field Unit 10
(DA - RFU 10)
|ROCS-04-04123||P2.5 million||undated||DA - RFU 10|
|ROCS-05-05327||P3 million||November 7, 2005||DA - RFU 10|
|ROCS-06-08565||P10 million||December 13, 2006||Technology Resource Center (TRC)|
|ROCS-07-00580||P10 million||January 12, 2007||TRC|
|ROCS-07-00861||P10 million||January 19, 2007||TRC|
|ROCS-07-05450||P10 million||March 21, 2007||TRC|
*$1 = P44.35