A former Iloilo congressman who served as the chief prosecutor during the trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona was indicted for graft and malversation for alleged misuse of his pork barrel funds.
In a statement Thursday, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the filing of criminal charges against former Iloilo Rep. Niel “JunJun” Tupas, Jr. for his alleged involvement in the anomalous use of his 2008 Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
The Ombudsman ordered Tupas charged before the Sandiganbayan with two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, one count of malversation, and one count of malversation through falsification of public documents.
Tupas’ indictment stemmed from the disbursement of P5 million of his pork barrel allocation, which went to the National Agri-Business Corporation (Nabcor) which partnered with an nongovernment organization (NGO).
The NGO Kabuhayan at Kalusugang Alay sa Masa Foundation, Inc. (KKAMFI), which was recommended by Tupas, later turned out to be bogus.
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The Ombudsman found in its field investigation that Tupas implemented “ghost projects,” when the mayors from the six towns of Ajuy, Batad, Estancia, Lemery, San Rafael and Sara denied receiving hand tractors, water pumps and grafted fruit seedling from Tupas’ PDAF.
The Ombudsman also found that the liquidation documents submitted by respondents were all fabricated.
Tupas signed the alleged list of beneficiaries of equipment and seedlings from his district, the Ombudsman added.
“To be able to repeatedly release substantial funds from the PDAF, access thereto must be made available, and this was made possible by Tupas, Jr. who directly chose and endorsed his own NGO to implement his PDAF-related projects. Tupas, Jr. himself issued the requisite endorsement letters and similar documentation addressed to the DA and NABCOR, acts which were necessary to ensure that the chosen NGO would be awarded the project,” the Ombudsman said.
“The evident misuse of the PDAF allocations through fictitious or non-existent projects should render respondents liable for malversation,” the Ombudsman added.
The Ombudsman also indicted Nabcor officials Alan Javellana, Rhodora Mendoza, Romulo Relevo, and Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, as well as KKAMFI project coordinator Marilou Antonio.
In a text message to reporters, Tupas said he was surprised by his indictment, especially because it was him who informed the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Ombudsman that his signatures were forged in releasing his pork barrel funds.
“I’m very surprised by the resolution of the Ombudsman in that case because from the very beginning I took positive steps to inform the COA and the government agencies concerned when I received information that spurious documents allegedly containing my signature were being used to facilitate the release of government funds,” Tupas said.
“I was the one who alerted COA and I asked the government agency concerned to withhold the release of fund (some of the funds were in fact returned to the national treasury as a result of my letter complaint). I also wrote the Ombudsman informing the office of our discovery of spurious documents that were used to facilitate the release of fund,” he added.
Tupas said he will file a motion for reconsideration with the hope that “the Ombudsman will see the light.”