Ex-Eastern Samar lawmaker faces criminal charges over PDAF scam

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman announced on Wednesday, January 13, that it has found probable cause to file criminal charges against former Eastern Samar representative Teodulo “Doloy” Coquilla and 6 others for their alleged involvement in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

The Ombudsman said in a statement that Coquilla faces two counts each of malversation and violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Also included in the charge sheet are National Agri-Business Corporation (Nabcor) officials Alan Javellana, Encarnita-Cristina Munsod, Ma Julie Villaralvo-Johnson and Romulo Relevo; and GabayMasa Development Foundation officials Margie Luz and Ma Cristina Vizcarra.

The case stemmed from Coquilla's project for Eastern Samar in 2007, funded by P5 million ($105,500) from his PDAF. 

The project involved the procurement of 32,887 calamundin, rambutan, chico, and mango seedlings; and 10,470 pieces of instructional materials intended for his constituents in the municipalities of Dolores, Maslog, Jipapad, Lawaan and Guiuan.

'Gross violations'

Conquilla entered into a Memorandum of Agreement identifying Nabcor as implementing agency of the project and GabayMasa as the NGO-project partner. Documents showed that Coquilla signed the certificate of acceptance and acknowledgment receipt for the project.

The  Ombudsman said the investigators discovered “gross violations of procurement rules” as the suppliers were unregistered business entities, with non-existent addresses.  

The Ombudsman's Field Investigation Office reported that the supposed supplier of the seedlings was a garden shop that sold landscaping materials and services, while  the supplier for the instructional materials was located in a residential area and sold car batteries and wheel interiors.

The Ombudsman also cited the Commission on Audit report that “no fruit seedlings or instructional materials (were) distributed to beneficiaries” and “at the time material to the charges, the suppliers did not possess the required accreditation to transact” as “it had no track record in project implementation.” 

‘Accountable officer’

“As the legislator responsible for the control and/or disposition of funds, drawn from his PDAF allocations, (Coquilla) is an accountable officer,”   Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said.

The Ombudsman dismissed Coquilla’s defense that his signatures were forged and ruled that his denial is insufficient to prove forgery.

 “To be able to repeatedly divert substantial funds from the PDAF, access thereto must be made available, and this was made possible by Coquilla who chose GabayMasa to implement his PDAF-related undertakings,” Morales said.

The Ombudsman explained in its resolution that “there is cohesion and interconnection in the respondents’ intent and purpose” and that “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.” – Rappler.com

US$1 = P47.39