[NEWS] 04/06/17: Aquino told to respond to DAP appeal 

Ombudsman probers order Aquino to comment on DAP appeal
Vince F. Nonato
@VinceNonatoINQ

Investigators of the Office of the Ombudsman have ordered former President Benigno Aquino III to respond to an appeal by progressive activists on the March 3 resolution sparing him from indictment over the outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program.

Aquino and all the other case parties, including former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, were directed to submit their comment within 15 days of the receipt of the order, the Ombudsman’s media bureau announced Thursday.

To recall, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales issued a finding of probable cause to charge only Abad for usurpation of legislative powers, as DAP effectively redefined “savings” as provided for by the 2012 General Appropriations Act passed by Congress.

The lack of explanation on why Aquino was absolved of criminal liability was seen as an “attempt to shield” the former President who appointed Morales to the position in 2011.

Complainants led by Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and former Rep. Neri Colmenares questioned why the Ombudsman ignored Aquino’s own DAP-related issuances in resolving their criminal complaint.

“Glaring is the lack of mention with respect to Aquino,” stated the March 13 motion for reconsideration filed on their behalf by the National Union of People’s Lawyers. 

They said Aquino approved DAP in October 2011 and Abad’s request to withdraw and pool the unutilized funds for the first half of 2012. 

For them, National Budget Circular No. 541, the issuance cited by the Ombudsman resolution, merely confirmed Aquino’s prior actions and Abad could not have issued it without the president’s approval.

“The Decision, in its attempt to shield Aquino, mentioned only NBC 541 apparently as the only document/act which ‘unduly modified, expanded the meaning of savings under the GAA,’” the appeal stated.

The Supreme Court in July 2014 declared certain budgetary practices under DAP unconstitutional, granting the petition by several personalities including Colmenares.

The outlawed practices include the cross-border transfer of funds and the declaration of savings before the end of the fiscal year in order to realign them for items not contained in the budget law passed by Congress.

Another anti-DAP petitioner, losing senatorial candidate Greco Belgica, sought Morales’ disbarment on March 24 because of her resolution absolving Aquino for “no reason.”

“By absolving the former president of the crime of usurpation of legislative powers without stating the reason, the Ombudsman only gave more weight to the people’s suspicion that she is biased,” Belgica’s complaint read.

But, only four days later, the SC threw out the disbarment complaint citing the immunity of a sitting Ombudsman, required by the Constitution to have been a lawyer or judge. #

JV Ejercito wants dismissal of calamity fund case
Vince F. Nonato
@VinceNonatoINQ

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito has sought permission from the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division to seek the dismissal of his technical malversation case for insufficiency of evidence.

In a three-page motion for leave to file demurrer, Ejercito and nine then-San Juan City councilors said state prosecutors have “failed to establish” that they misappropriated P2.1 million in calamity funds to purchase high-powered firearms when he was mayor in 2008.

According to the Ejercito-led motion, there was no diversion or misapplication of public funds because the use of the funds had been authorized by the Sangguniang Panlungsod ordinances that have yet to be invalidated by any court.

“The question to be addressed in proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt on the part of the accused must only be whether or not the use of the public funds for the firearms subject of this case was supported by an appropriation ordinance validly enacted by the Sangguniang Panglungsod,” the motion read.

The motion added that prosecutors “cannot impugn the legality of the Ordinances through a collateral challenge” just to prove the city officials’ criminal liability.

At the same time, the motion said the prosecution failed to show the calamity funds were really spent on the firearms bought from lone bidder HK Tactical Defense System, Inc. (HKTDSI).

The motion also noted that since the payment of the firearms ended up not being charged against the calamity fund at the instruction of the Commission on Audit.

Because of this, no disallowance was made on the payments.

It stated that the prosecution’s own evidence and witnesses, including City Accounting Office officer-in-charge Alicia Barazon and City Treasurer officer-in-charge Leticia Alcober, even confirmed that the cost of the firearms were paid out of the general fund and not the calamity fund.

“Thus, the second element of technical malversation, i.e., that the accused applied the calamity fund to some public use, is absent as there is no proof of such application in the first place,” the motion read.

The motion added that the councilors’ part in enacting the appropriation ordinances cannot be considered a conspiracy because “no proof of any overt act done by accused that will indicate a common intention, plan or design to commit technical malversation.”
Joining Ejercito in questioning the sufficiency of the prosecution’s case were three incumbent city officials: councilors Leonardo Celles and Vincent Rainier Pacheco, and public information officer Grace Pardines.

Also joining the demurrer were former councilors Andoni Miguel Carballo, Vincent Rainer Pacheco, Dante Santiago, Grace Pardines, Francis Keith Peralta, Edgardo Soriano, Jannah Ejercito-Surla, and Joseph Christopher Torralba.

State prosecutors were given 10 days to state why Ejercito and the other accused should not be allowed to challenge the evidence through a demurrer.

While the technical malversation case is still pending trial at the Sixth Division, the court’s Fifth Division in Dec. 22 already granted Ejercito’s demurrer against the separate graft case in connection with alleged procurement anomalies in the award of the contract to HKTDSI. #

[NEWS] 3/31/17: Blueboy gets 12 years for graft; Degamo and Reyes seek dismissal of charges over Ombudsman delays

Blueboy gets 12 to 20 years for graft
Vince F. Nonato
@VinceNonatoINQ
The Sandiganbayan has sentenced former Angeles City Mayor Francis “Blueboy” Nepomuceno to at least 12 years’ imprisonment for the unlawful donation of a city-owned service vehicle to a non-government organization in 2010.
The antigraft court’s Fourth Division found Nepomuceno guilty of one count each of violating Sections 3(e) and 3(g) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for giving unwarranted benefits to a private party and for binding the government into a disadvantageous contract.
Nepomuceno and one private individual, Kapanalig Angeles City, Inc. president Abelardo Pamintuan Jr., were each meted prison terms of at least 12 years and two months to a maximum of 20 years arising from the two criminal convictions.
The verdict arose from the June 8, 2010 donation of a Mitsubishi Adventure GLS 2.5 vehicle with the plate number SHL 124 and acquisition cost of P786,000. Because Kapanalig was not a government entity, state prosecutors questioned the donation for violating the Local Government Code.

Continue reading “[NEWS] 3/31/17: Blueboy gets 12 years for graft; Degamo and Reyes seek dismissal of charges over Ombudsman delays”

[NEWS] 3/27/17: Duterte’s bid for power to appoint village chiefs starts moving at House; Ombudsman rejects mayor’s defense that most officials have mistresses

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Photo contributed by the office of Rep. Robert Ace Barbers.
Bill seeks powers for Duterte to appoint village chiefs
Vince F. Nonato
@VinceNonatoINQ
 

An administration ally has gotten the ball rolling on the proposal to delay the barangay and youth council elections and empower President Rodrigo Duterte to fill up the ensuing vacancies.

Surigao del Norte 2nd Dist. Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, the House’s dangerous drugs committee chair, has filed House Bill No. 5359, in order to “support the President’s call to eliminate drugs and corruption” among the leaders of the country’s smallest political unit.
The said bill seeks to deem terminated the incumbent barangay officials who are currently serving in a holdover capacity after the village elections set for October 2016 was delayed by a year through Republic Act No. 10923.
In their place, the proposed measure simply provides that “officers-in-charge shall be appointed by the President.” The bill did not specify any qualifications for the possible appointees.

Continue reading “[NEWS] 3/27/17: Duterte’s bid for power to appoint village chiefs starts moving at House; Ombudsman rejects mayor’s defense that most officials have mistresses”

[NEWS] 3/24/17: Anti-DAP petitioner seeks Ombudsman’s disbarment; Morales wishes him luck

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Anti-DAP petitioner seeks Ombudsman’s disbarment; Morales wishes him luck

Vince F. Nonato
@VinceNonatoINQ
For letting former President Benigno Aquino III off the hook over the outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program for “no reason,” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales is facing a disbarment complaint from the petitioner who challenged its constitutionality of presidential pork barrel.
Greco Belgica, an avid supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte who twice lost in the Senate elections, accused Morales of violating the lawyers’ code this month when she absolved Aquino for usurpation of legislative authority without stating her basis.
Belgica did not outright seek the penalty, at least not until Morales has stepped down from her position.
If the case could be resolved before her retirement on July 25, 2018, Belgica asked the Supreme Court to sanction Morales with public censure first and impose the penalty of disbarment “after the expiration of her term.”
Should the case continue beyond Morales’s term, Belgica said the high court should resolve the case in favor of barring her from practicing law.
Morales, whose nephew Manases Carpio is the husband of Duterte’s daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, took Belgica’s latest moves in stride.

Continue reading “[NEWS] 3/24/17: Anti-DAP petitioner seeks Ombudsman’s disbarment; Morales wishes him luck”

[NEWS] 3/21/17: Hagedorn charged over undeclared assets

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Hagedorn charged over undeclared assets
Vince F. Nonato
@VinceNonatoINQ
Former Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn has been formally charged at the Sandiganbayan over his alleged undeclared wealth.
The Office of the Ombudsman charged Hagedorn with nine counts each of perjury under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code and violations of Section 7 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Section 8 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Hagedorn is accused of making false representations in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth for the years 2004 to 2012.
He allegedly failed to declare numerous properties and business interests in his asset disclosures during nine straight years when he was city mayor.
The allegedly undeclared properties include a total of 59 properties with a total area of 132.57 hectares (1.3 million square meters).

Continue reading “[NEWS] 3/21/17: Hagedorn charged over undeclared assets”

[NEWS] 03/14/17: Drug war widow sues ‘Duterte’

War on drugs: ‘Duterte’ and men sued for killing father and son

Vince F. Nonato
@VinceNonatoINQ
A mother and her daughter (veiled in black and peach cloth) sues eight policemen and their informant at the Office of the Ombudsman for murdering her husband and her son.
Will this be a case of People vs. Duterte?
A woman who lost her husband and son to the government’s bloody anti-narcotics campaign has sued eight Caloocan City policemen and their informant at the Office of the Ombudsman.
The policemen, led by Northern Police District Special Operations Unit (NPD-DSOU) chief Supt. Ali Jose Duterte, were accused of murdering Luis Bonifacio and 19-year-old son Gabriel Lois at their house on Sept. 15, under the guise of a purported buy-bust operation.
The supposedly unarmed Bonifacios were allegedly killed during the operation after fighting back against authorities—”nanlaban,” as the police would explain the ensuing bloodshed.

[NEWS] 03/14/17: Militants appeal Ombudsman decision ‘shielding’ Aquino in DAP case

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Militants appeal DAP decision that ‘shielded’ Aquino
Vince F. Nonato
@VinceNonatoINQ
Progressive activists have filed an appeal on the Ombudsman’s decision that “attempted to shield” former President Benigno Aquino III from liability over the outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Such was the “attempt to shield” Aquino that the March 3 resolution barely explained why Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales let him off the hook and only indicted his Budget Secretary Florencio Abad for usurpation of legislative powers.
Besides this observation, activists led by Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate also pointed out that the Ombudsman ignored Aquino’s own issuances, made logical errors, and misapplied Supreme Court rulings in order to clear him of the offenses of technical malversation and graft.
In a strongly-worded 17-page motion for reconsideration filed by the National Union of People’s Lawyers on Monday, the activists said Abad could not have been the only official liable for usurpation of Congress’ powers.
While the Ombudsman resolution found Abad’s National Budget Circular 541 to have illegally redefined “savings” under the General Appropriations Act in July 2012, the appeal noted that Aquino’s prior issuances were swept under the rug.
The complainants pointed out that Aquino himself approved DAP in October 2011, as well as Abad’s request for authority to withdraw and pool the unutilized funds for the first half of 2012.
They noted that Abad’s NBC 541 merely confirmed Aquino’s prior actions and he could not have issued it without the president’s approval.
“Glaring is the lack of mention with respect to Aquino,” the motion read. “The Decision, in its attempt to shield Aquino mentioned only NBC 541 apparently as the only document/act which ‘unduly modified, expanded the meaning of savings under the GAA.'”
‘Idiots until proven otherwise’
The activists also took exception to the Ombudsman’s finding that Aquino and Abad were in good faith and could not be held liable for graft.
They maintained that the officials knowingly caused undue injury to the government by curtailing the agencies’ spending power through the premature declaration of unused funds as “savings.”
“With due respect, Complainants cannot subscribe to the Decision’s apparent perspective pertaining the duties and responsibilities of our public officials, that is, they are stupid or idiots until proven otherwise,” the motion read.
“The Preisdent and his alter egos are thus presumed, like ordinary people, to know the law, and as such ignorance, feigned or otherwise, is not an excuse,” it added.
The complainants also noted the Ombudsman’s logical “flaw” in dismissing the technical malversation charge.
The Ombudsman held that Aquino and Abad were just the “policy-makers” and they did not directly misapply the funds for other purposes.
But, the complainants still deemed them liable as the “clear masterminds/authors” who directed the diversion of funds.
The complainants also disagreed with the Ombudsman’s pronouncement that the premature declaration of “savings” does not itself consummate the violation of the law.
The appeal also chided the Ombudsman for sidestepping the issue of whether the DAP funds were used for purposes other than those they were appropriated for.
For the complainants, the Supreme Court’s July 2014 and February 2015 are already sufficient bases for such a finding.
In a press statement, Zarate insisted that “the main person who carried out the crime should not have been spared from punishment.”
“Otherwise, there’s no use to this case. It will only further the state of impunity  in the budget system our government,” he said.
The Supreme Court in 2014 declared that certain budgetary practices under DAP as unconstitutional. These include the cross-border transfer of funds and the declaration of savings before the end of the fiscal year in order to realign them for items not contained in the budget law passed by Congress. #