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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Gonzales Faces Plunder Graft Over Php 315 Million Pork Barrel Misuse

A multi-sectoral group yesterday filed plunder and graft charges against Liberal Party stalwart and House Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly misusing his P315-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) from 2007 to 2009.
But Gonzales when sought for reaction told newsmen the plunder complaint won’t hold water.
The complainants, the Sentinels of the Rule of Law (Sentinels) said it filed the 63-page complaint because the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation were either reluctant or uninterested in filing the complaint.
The group of political reform advocates is composed of professionals, businessmen and ordinary employees who are all active in social media.
Sentinels representative Salvador B. Banares noted that Gonzales and other lawmakers from the administration have not been prosecuted despite the inclusion of their names in the special report of the Commission on Audit (COA) on the PDAF scam.
“Is it because respondent Gonzales is one of the pillars of the ruling Liberal Party and majority floor leader of the House of Representatives such that the prosecution arm of the government refrain from investigating and prosecuting criminal cases against him for his unlawful disbursement and misuse of the PDAF?” Banares queried.
The group called for the fair and equal treatment in the prosecution of persons involved in the funding anomaly.
Banares said their complaint is based on the findings of the COA which allegedly showed misuse on the part of Gonzales with respect to his PDAF allocations.
“COA was able to trace and pinpoint the irregularities in the transactions entered into by respondent Gonzales proving misappropriation, conversion misuse of his PDAF,’ Banares added.
These include procurement of supplies and equipment for barangays and schools, financial assistance like funeral services and livelihood projects in the lone congressional district of Mandaluyong.
Based on the COA report, the transactions were either denied by the suppliers or that the suppliers can no longer be located. In some instances, there were no liquidation of cash advances. 

“I vehemently deny the allegations against me. We await what the Ombudsman will do, if I’ll be required to answer then we will answer in due time,” Gonzales, who represents the lone district of Mandaluyong City, said in an impromptu press conference inside his office following the filing of plunder and graft charges.
“If it’s true that their sole basis is the SAO report, Ombudsman Morales has said before that the SAO report alone cannot be the basis of a criminal prosecution because at best it’s just hearsay evidence. It must be more than the SAO report,” Gonzales stressed .
He also pointed out that the COA report is as yet “unfinished” and “not final,” since the lawmakers would still have to answer the Commission’s findings.
Gonzales then chided his accusers for singling him out, even if the COA report included a plethora of other congressmen.
“I don’t want to question their motive, but I’m not the only one in the SAO report. If they are truly Sentinels of the Rule of Law, then why (only) me? It leaves a bad taste in the mouth and it makes me suspicious,” said the majority leader.
Gonzales, however, clarified that he was not daring the group to sue other lawmakers. Instead, he vowed to respond accordingly to the complaint filed before the Ombudsman as well as to the COA report.
His office, Gonzales revealed, is now at the tail end of answering the COA report, adding that it took some time for his accountants to gather the 100,000 or so pages of documents that would show how his P315-million PDAF was utilized.
If anything, the third-term solon said Mandaluyong had been the sole beneficiary of his pork-funded pet projects.
Referring to the Sentinel complaint, Gonzales said: “I do not take this lightly, but I know this will not prosper.”
Asked if he thought that the charge is tainted with local politics, he answered, “I don’t want to tie this up with local politics. I have no suspicion with that.”
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