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Dismissal of Sen. Villanueva ordered

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(Photo from Manila Times)


QUEZON CITY ― Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the dismissal from public service of Senator Emmanuel Joel Villanueva after finding him liable for the misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel, in 2008, when he was a congressman representating the CIBAC party-list. 


Villanueva said he was surprised with the decision, claiming that his signatures in the documents were forged and this was also the finding of the National Bureau of Investigation.


The neophyte senator said he would appeal the ruling.


The Ombudsman earlier suspended another senator, Joseph Victor Ejercito, for graft in connection with the use of unauthorized funds in the purchase of guns by the San Juan City government when he was still mayor.


Ejercito decided to follow the 90-day suspension.


Morales directed Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to implement the dismissal order on Villanueva, who topped the Senate race in the May 9 elections. 


Aside from being sacked, Villanueva will also face trial before the Sandiganbayan for two counts of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practice Act and one count each for malversation of public funds and malversation through the falsification of public documents, the Office of the Ombudsman said.


In a statement shortly after the Ombudsman released its statement on his dismissal, Villanueva said: "I already filed a motion for reconsideration before the Ombudsman, and will leave it to the Senate President to act on the Ombudsman's order."


Pimentel, on the other hand, said he will refer the dismissal order on Villanueva to the Senate committee on rules, chaired by Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, as he did with on Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, who was ordered suspended for 90 days by the Ombudsman, a directive the Supreme Court upheld earlier this month.


Ejercito, who went on "forced vacation," is facing trial for graft over the allegedly irregular purchase of firearms for San Juan City when he was mayor. 


But Pimentel said he would act only after the Ombudsman rules on Villanueva's motion for reconsideration.


“I was informed that a motion for reconsideration was filed. Hence, the Ombudsman must act on that first before I act on the communication of the Ombudsman to me, “he said.


In a brief statement, Villanueva insisted on his contention that his signatures on documents related to the case were forged as were some of the documents, citing one that had a Buhay party-list letterhead.


He also stressed that "the NBI has already made a conclusion that the signatures on the related documents were forged."


Villanueva also said that, "as a minority congressman then, I did not receive that amount."


"In any case, my faith is strong in the judicial system and in time, justice will be served," he added.


Charged with Villanuva are former Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap, Villanueva’s staff Ronald Samonte, DA employee Delia Ladera, NABCOR (National Agri-business Corporation) representatives Alan Javellana, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Rhodora Mendoza, and Maria Ninez Guanizo; and Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc. president Alfredo Ronquillo.


The case stems from the release of P10 million from Villanueva’s pork barrel. It was the then congressman who requested Yap to release the funds to NABCOR as implementing agency and AFPI as the NGO-partner. 


The money was supposed to purchase seedlings, liquid fertilizer and threshers from MJ Rickson Trading Corporation for beneficiaries in the towns of Pantukan, Nabunturan, Tambongon, Bongabong, Napnapan, Mipangi, Anislagan and Magsaysay in Compostela Valley province.


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