Ombudsman affirms raps vs ex-Nueva Ecija lawmaker

Ian Ocampo Flora

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- The Office of the Ombudsman has affirmed the filing of graft and malversation charges against Rodolfo Antonino, the former representative of the fourth district of Nueva Ecija, for the alleged anomalous utilization of his P15,000,000 Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for 2007.

In a statement, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has affirmed the filing of two counts of malversation and two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019) against Antonino; former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap; and Alan Javellana, Rhodora Mendoza, Encarnita Cristina Munsod, Maria Ninez Guañizo, all from the National Agri-Business Corporation (NABCOR). Also indicted are Marilou Antonio, representative of Buhay Mo Mahal Ko Foundation Inc. (BMMKFI) and Carmelita Barredo of C.C. Barredo Publishing House.

In his January 2007 letter, Antonino requested and directly endorsed NABCOR and BMMKFI to the DA as implementors of his livelihood training kits (LTK) project. On March 22, 2007, the BMMKFI through Antonino, exclusively procured from C.C. Barredo 7,275 sets of LTKs worth P2,000 each or a total of P14.55million. One day after, or on March 23, 2007, the supplier allegedly delivered the LTKs in Roxas Boulevard which were allegedly accepted and acknowledged by Antonino.

Reports said that upon actual field verification, it was found that these were allegedly ghost projects as several local officials of Nueva Ecija denied ever receiving any of the LTKs. Neither was the project supported by any project proposal, physical and audited financial reports, monitoring reports or due diligence conducted in the supplier and NGO-selection process. There was also no public bidding or any procurement conducted for the project.

In affirming the charges, the Ombudsman ruled that “the motions for reconsideration are mere rehashes of the issues and claims previously raised by them and already passed upon by the Office.”

The Ombudsman emphasized that “in a Congressional Pork Barrel System, including the PDAF, it is the legislator who exercises actual control and custody of the PDAF share allocated to him.”