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DOJ orders NBI to probe Pnoy, Abad, Drilon, Trillanes, others

(Photo from Philippine Star)


MANILA – Former President Benigno S. Aquino III and his allies maybe facing more charges soon as Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre ordered last week the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe President Benigno Aquino III in connection with the multibillion-peso Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) during his term which had been ruled as unconstitutional and illegal by the Supreme Court.


Aguirre issued Department Order (DO) No. 749 dated November 23 but was released to media on Nov. 25 stating that his directive is based on the complaint of former Manila councilor Greco Belgica over Aquino’s alleged involvement in the DAP mess.


Aguirre, meanwhile, said two former Cabinet members during the Aquino administration and a brother in law of Aquino may face criminal liability for their alleged involvement in fake road right-of-way (RROW) claims for government projects amounting to P8.7 billion in General Santos City (See separate full story).


Aguirre said they based on the testimony of a witness now under the custody of the Department of Justice (DOJ), former Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson and former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad approved and requested the payment of fake RROW.


As this developed, Senator Grace Poe lauded the effort of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to file plunder charges against nine cabinet members of former president Benigno S. Aquino III before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged anomalous contract between Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) and Busan Universal Railways Inc. (BURI).


Observers said the plunder charges could eventually link Aquino to the controversial contract.


Named as respondents in the plunder complaints were former Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and former Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manuel Roxas II.


Roxas served as DOTC secretary prior to his appointment as DILG secretary.


Also charged were former Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad, former Department of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, former Department of Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, former Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo, former Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, former Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, and former National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balicasan.


DOTr also named former DOTC undersecretaries Edwin Lopez, Rene Limcaoco and Catherine Gonzales as respondents.


“We should let the ax fall where it should. I believe the DOTr has exercised due diligence in reviewing the issues with BURI, strong enough to come up with a case against those involved,” Poe said in a press statement.


Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, said that her committee’s investigation revealed that the award by MRT-3 of its maintenance contractor to (BURI) was “anomalous and disadvantageous to the public.”


“The NBI, through Director Dante A. Gierran, is hereby directed and granted authority to investigate the complaint filed by Coalition for Investigation and Prosecution represented by Greco Belgica, et. al. against former President Benigno Aquino III et. al. for malversation,” Aguirre said in the Department Order.


Apart from DO 749, the DOJ chief also issued two more DOs, 751 and 752, also ordering the NBI to re-open its investigation into the anomalies in the DAP and PDAF scam, respectively.


In all three DOs, Aguirre also instructed the NBI “to form a special task force that will investigate the said anomalies.”


Aguirre also told the NBI that the task force should submit periodic reports of its investigation to Justice Undersecretary Antonio Kho Jr.


The Office of the Ombudsman already cleared Aquino from a criminal complaint concerning the DAP but found probable cause to indict former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.


Aguirre explained the NBI can still file a complaint using evidence in its possession.


“It doesn’t prevent you from filing the same kind of complaint with additional evidence,” he said.


“Walang double jeepardy diyan (There is no double jeopardy),” he assured.


Under the law, double jeopardy means an accused cannot be charged more than once in court for the same crime.


Last September, Belgica’s group submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) pieces of evidence allegedly showing misuse of the DAP funds, which the Supreme Court had voided and declared unconstitutional.


Belgica wants an investigation into the alleged discrepancy of P2.6 billion from the DAP spending, and pursue cases of malversation of public funds with aggravating circumstances against Aquino, former DBM secretray Florencio Abad and former DBM undersecretary Mario Relampagos. Senators Franklin Drilon and Antonio Trillanes IV have also been implicated in the anomaly.


The documents also showed that P6.5 billion from the P144-billion DAP funds of the previous administration was allocated to various local projects that were not itemized in the budget.


Belgica said the evidence they gathered were a result of years of investigation as part of their advocacy against pork barrel system in government.


“We only pray for truth and justice to be served. DAP is a crime that has been decided almost four years ago. Its investigation and the prosecution of its perpetrators have been blocked since then by those who committed it and with many of those who still remain in power. Things and systems will not change until justice is served and truth revealed. Kawawa ang Pilipino at mga anak natin (The Filipinos and our children's plight are pitiful),” Belgica said when sought for comment.


“We did what we could for the country with what we personally had. Yan lang inabot po ngayon. (That is what we have now.) But DOJ and NBI can now can use our template to build up a cases against all culprits regardless of political affiliation and verify what we submitted. All our evidences have been submitted to DOJ. Wala na kaming hawak. Kung ano ang totoo yun lang. Parusahan ang dapat parusahan, kulong kung kulong, abswelto kung abswelto, para mabago ang dapat mabago (We do not have anything now. We are just after the truth. Punish the ones who deserve punishment. If they deserve imprisonment, then they should be imprisoned. If they are acquitted, then let it be. So that what needs change will be changed.),” he said.

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