Ombudsman probes ex-agri chief, Joel Villanueva, 9 others

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered a preliminary investigation and administrative proceedings against Technical Education Skills and Development Authority head Joel Villanueva, former agriculture chief Arthur Yap, and 9 others in connection with the alleged misuse of P10 million in  lawmakers' funds.

The Ombudsman made the announcement on Friday, August 7, the same day the justice department filed a complaint with the office against 40 people, including Villanueva, for their alleged involvement in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

Also included in the preliminary investigation are representatives of the National Agri-Business Corporation (Nabcor) and Aaron Foundation Philippines, Incorporated (AFPI), said to rival the fake nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)  ran by alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles. (READ: Rival NGOs beat Napoles in House 'pork barrel'

They are:

The Ombudsman said that upon the recommendation of its Field Investigation Office (FIO), Villanueva and Yap will be investigated for malversation, falsification of public documents, violation of Republic Act No. 3019  or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and grave misconduct. 

The FIO investigation showed that on June 10, 2008, the Department of Budget and Management issued two Special Allotment Release Orders totaling P10 million as part of the PDAF of Villanueva, who was CIBAC party-list representative at the time. This was for an agri-based livelihood project for the distribution of seedlings, liquid fertilizer, and threshers.  

Two days later, Villanueva wrote Yap, then agriculture secretary, requesting the transfer of funds to the National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) as implementing agency of the project.

On June 19, 2008, the DA and Nabcor entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the project implementation. Nabcor and AFPI later entered into a MOA deeming AFPI as project implementor.

The FIO discovered that Nabcor was not an implementing agency authorized to implement PDAF projects, and that AFPI did not have the capacity to implement the project.

It also found out that the MOA did not provide technical information such as project name, intended beneficiaries, benefits, project description, site location, and time schedules for project monitoring.

A Commission on Audit report showed that the supplier of the farm inputs and farm implement was not a licensed fertilizer distributor, had no existing business name registration, and could not be located in its given address.

"On-site field validation also discovered that not a single individual in the list of beneficiaries was identified as a bona fide resident of the province.   Local executives attested that no-agri based livelihood project was implemented and neither was there any distribution of seedlings, liquid fertilizers or threshers," the Ombudsman said. 

It was the second blow in one day day against Villanueva, an ally and close friend of President Benigno Aquino III, eyed as an administration senatorial candidate in 2016.

On Friday, the Department of Justice filed charges before the Ombudsman against Villanueva, Senator Gregorio Honasan, and several other former and incumbent lawmakers, public officials, and private individuals, over the PDAF scam involving Napoles NGOs. – Rappler.com