Ex-DSWD chief, North Cotabato solon, 3 others rapped for Php9-M PDAF scam

Former North Cotabato (2nd District) Rep. Gregorio Ipong is facing a second set of charges for his alleged involvement in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

In a 32-page resolution, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the filing of two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act", one count each of malversation and malversation thru falsification of public funds, against Ipong and former Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Esperanza Cabral.

Also ordered charged before the Sandiganbayan are DSWD Undersecretary Mateo MontaAo, Chief Accountant Leonila Hayahay and Roberto Solon of the Economic and Social Cooperation for Local Development Foundation, Inc. (ECOSOC).

Ipong, currently the North Cotabato Vice-Governor, was found responsible for the anomalous utilization of his Php9.4-million PDAF issued thru a Special Release Allotment Order (SARO) in January 2007.

The fund was supposed to target the poor and marginalized sectors of Ipong's constituents in the second district of North Cotabato thru medical missions, health materials and various medicines worth Php400,000; and capacity building/livelihood capital assistance for 75 marginal families in extremely difficult circumstances pegged at PHP9 million, or Php120,000 per family.

Ombudsman field probers found that Ipong instructed that the fund be downloaded to the DSWD, as implementing agency, thru the ECOSOC, as a non-government organization (NGO)-partner.

Verification made by the Ombudsman showed that "a majority of the supposed beneficiaries denied receipt of the purported assistance."

Certifications and affidavits from city, municipal and barangay officials were obtained by the Ombudsman to prove that the PDAF was used to fund Ipong's "ghost projects."

Key documents were obtained showing the absence of due diligence audit of the NGO as ECOSOC was financially incapable of implementing multi-million peso projects due to its measly capital of only Php56,000.

The respondents also failed to comply with the requirement of public bidding as explicitly required under the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Medicine supplier, Ace Pharmaceuticals, denied engaging in any business transaction with ECOSOC relative to the supply of medicines.

The Board of Trustees of ECOSOC also denied any knowledge of the transactions entered into by ECOSOC with DSWD.

The NGO issued a letter to the Commission on Audit (COA) stating that "the persons involved must have used their NGO for their own personal and unauthorized purpose."

The Ombudsman resolution also said that "Cabral, as then DSWD Secretary, prepared, reviewed and entered into the Memorandum of Agreement governing the implementation of the projects."

Ombudsman Morales said that "instead of using the PDAF disbursements received by them to implement the livelihood projects, respondents diverted these sums amounting to Php9.4 million to their own pockets."

"The role played by each of them was so indispensable to the success of their scheme that, without any of them, the same would have failed," Morales added.

Likewise, the Ombudsman also found Ipong and MontaAo guilty of grave misconduct, ordering their dismissal from the service and perpetual disqualification from holding public office with forfeiture of all retirement benefits.

In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondents' salary for one year.

In October last year, the Ombudsman found Ipong also liable for the misuse of his Php10-million 2007 PDAF coursed thru the Aaron Foundation, Inc.

He was then charged with violation of Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019 and malversation.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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