Ex-Iloilo rep Niel Tupas Jr indicted for graft over PDAF scam

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Former Iloilo Fifth District Representative Niel Tupas Jr was indicted of two counts of graft over his involvement in the pork barrel scam, the Office of the Ombudsman said on Thursday, July 20.

Tupas, a member of the Liberal Party, was the lead prosecutor in the impeachment trial of the late former chief justice Renato Corona in 2012. (READ: The prosecution’s original sin)

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said in a statement on Thursday that she has ordered the filing of two counts of graft, one count of malversation, and one count of malversation through falsification of documents against Tupas Jr and officials of an implementing agency and a non-governmental organization (NGO).

According to the Ombudsman, Tupas allotted P5 million from his priority development assistance fund (PDAF) in 2008 to fund projects which were all discovered to be ghost projects.

"The Ombudsman also found that the liquidation documents submitted by respondents were all fabricated, with Tupas himself signing the alleged list of beneficiaries of equipment and seedlings from his district," the statement said.

Tupas said his signatures were forged.

"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 Commission on Audit (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 in a text message sent to reporters on Thursday.

Tupas said he made cautionary measures to make sure the problems were addressed.

"I was the one who alerted COA about it and I asked the government agency concerned to withhold the release of fund. I also wrote the Ombudsman informing the office of our discovery of spurious documents that were used to facilitate the release of fund," Tupas said.

Tupas said he will appeal the indictment.

NGO a Napoles rival

Tupas's PDAF was funneled through implementing agency National Agri-Business Corporation (NABCOR) and Kabuhayan at Kalusugang Alay sa Masa Foundation, Inc. (KKAMFI). 

KKAMFI is not among the NGOs of alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. It belongs to the network of NGOs owned by Godofredo Roque, Marilou L. Antonio, and Marilou C. Ferrer as indicated in the special report of the Commission on Audit (COA). This NGO network supposedly rivaled Napoles for the pork barrel of lawmakers.

KKAMFI's Antonio was indicted along with Tupas. NABCOR's  Alan Javellana, Rhodora Mendoza, Romulo Relevo, and Ma Julie Villaralvo-Johnson were also indicted.

Ghost projects

Tupas's P5-million PDAF was supposed to fund the purchase hand tractors, water pumps ,and grafted fruit seedlings for farmers in several Iloilo towns.

"During its field investigation, the Ombudsman found that Tupas implemented “ghost projects” as mayors from the 6 municipalities of Ajuy, Batad, Estancia, Lemery, San Rafael, and Sara denied receiving any of the farm implements," the Ombudsman said.

Morales added that Tupas personally endorsed KKAMFI to handle the project to "ensure that the chosen NGO would be awarded the project.”

"This Office is convinced that they conspired with one another in this nefarious scheme to misappropriate public funds drawn from Tupas Jr’s PDAF," the Ombudsman said. Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.