Saturday| June 24, 2017
Incoming Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Tuesday was sued for plunder before the Ombudsman for alleged ill-gotten wealth and hidden properties allegedly funded by his pork barrel funds.
Hernando Bruce filed the complaint asking Lagman to be placed under lifestyle check and charged with plunder, a non-bailable offense of criminally accumulating at least P50 million in ill-gotten wealth.
Citing a Commission on Audit report, Bruce charged Lagman with accumulating P240 million in cahoots with his daughter Krisel Lagman-Luistro during his term as Albay first district representative from 2007 to 2010.
Bruce alleged that Lagman acquired the following properties funded out of his pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Funds: the Patio De San Jose hotel in Malilipot, Albay (allegedly registered under Lagman’s purported dummy, his staff Rose Bombales), a gravel and sand rock crusher plant; a 10-hectare property in Sogod, Bacacay with an estimated value of P50 million; a heavy equipment garage in Bacacay, Albay under the name of Lagman’s dummy Bombales; a mansion in the United States worth $30 million; and another mansion in Tagaytay worth P50 million, among others.
Bruce also asked the Ombudsman to conduct a lifestyle check on Lagman and investigate his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth.
Bruce asked the Ombudsman to include plunder on top of a graft complaint he earlier filed against Lagman on April 22.
In the graft complaint, Bruce alleged that Lagman spent P86 million of his PDAF for projects in 28 barangays in Quezon City, as well as in Nueva Ecija and Pampanga, or outside his legislative districts.
The complainant said Lagman implemented projects in Quezon City where his son Edcel Lagman Jr. was a councilor.
Lagman’s utilization of PDAF outside his legislative district “deprived the Albayanos of the gains, profit, and advantages for which Lagman’s PDAF was legally intended.”
The complaint said the benefits given to residents in Quezon City, Nueva Ecija, and Pampanga were “unwarranted and bereft of legal basis.”
Bruce also cited audit reports in alleging that Lagman spent P18.5 million of his PDAF for projects constructed on private properties in Quezon City, which violates the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines that prohibit the use of public funds for private purposes.
Lagman also allegedly took advantage of his position as congressman when, between 2008 and 2009, he downloaded P29.6 million of his PDAF to Tabaco city, where his daughter Lagman-Luistro was mayor at the time.
Of the projects, Lagman adopted a loan program not supported by a project proposal, a scholarship program not supported with a request from intended beneficiaries, and the procurement of supplies like computers, xerox machines, text books, among others not supported with the required documents.
The complaint alleged that Lagman coursed his PDAF to “suppliers of questionable existence” to supply computers, books, foodstuff, medals, and trophies in Tabaco.
The suppliers were allegedly not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Bruce said Lagman committed graft for causing undue injury to government in spending his PDAF outside his legislative district.
Lagman also committed graft when he gave undue preference to the residents of Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, and Quezon City even though they were not his constituents.
In a phone interview, Lagman said the funds alleged to have been spent outside his district were sourced from the leadership fund allotted to House leaders and committee chairpersons and duly earmarked in the General Appropriations Act.
“The leadership fund was for nationwide utilization … There’s nothing wrong about it. It’s completely legitimate. It’s appropriated in the General Appropriations Act. There’s no violation whatsoever,” Lagman said.
Lagman said he never spent his PDAF on projects built on private enterprises.
He also said the complainant Bruce was part of his campaign in 1987 who started “badmouthing” him when Lagman refused to give Bruce a government post he was unqualified for.
Lagman said he had no hidden properties registered in the names of his alleged dummies.
“That’s completely uncalled for. I have filed my statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth regularly and I have no hidden property … That’s completely fabricated,” Lagman said.
Lagman, the principal author of the Reproductive Health law, won back the Albay congressional seat in the May 9 polls, replacing his son Edcel “Grix” Lagman Jr., who served for one term in 2013 in place of his father who had reached the term limit.