MANILA — Former Caloocan City (2nd District) Rep. Mari Mitzi Cajayon is facing charges before the Sandiganbayan along with six others for their alleged involvement in a PHP10-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
This, after the Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to charge Cajayon with two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”, one count of malversation and another count of malversation thru falsification of public documents.
Likewise, the Ombudsman ordered the filing of charges against the lawmaker’s co-conspirators from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Cenon Mayor of the Kaloocan Assistance Council, Inc. (KACI).
Also facing charges are former DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral, Undersecretary Mateo Montaño, Assistant Secretary Vilma Cabrera, Chief Accountant Leonila Hayahay and Assistant Director Pacita Sarino.
Probers from the Ombudsman found that in 2009, Cajayon personally endorsed the implementation of her PDAF-funded Comprehensive Integrated Delivery of Social Services (CIDSS) program to KACI.
On April 13, 2009, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released the amount of PHP10 million to the DSWD as the congresswoman’s chosen implementing agency.
The said amount was used to fund the projects such as PHP2 million as funeral assistance; PHP1.93 million as educational assistance; PHP2 million as financial assistance; PHP250,000 each for tents; medical and dental assistance; anti-rabies program; and fumigation; PHP570,000 for de-clogging of drainage; PHP250,000 each for sports gear, trophies and medals; and for fiesta, sports activities, concerts, dance and singing contests.
The remaining balance was used by KACI for its maintenance, supervisory and management fees.
Field validation by the Ombudsman showed that Cajayon’s projects were dubious and considered as ghost projects.
On Oct. 14, 2010, the Commission on Audit (COA) issued a Notice of Suspension over a portion of Cajayon’s PDAF as it noted that no procurement documents were shown to support the acquisition of tents, medicines, trophies and balls.
A number of beneficiaries also denied having received any financial or burial assistance from the congresswoman. Verification of the invoices and receipts submitted by main supplier, Silver “A” Enterprises, also showed that the same were falsified.
Meanwhile, a background check with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Quezon City government showed that Silver A “is not registered and has no record in said agencies.”
The COA also found that the NGO-selection process was not compliant with COA Circular No. 2007-001 and Resolution No. 12-2007 of the Government Procurement Policy Board.
The Ombudsman also found it alarming that Cajayon approved the release of funds despite the non-government organization’s (NGO’s) admission that it had failed to liquidate projects from 2006 to 2007.
In its resolution, the Ombudsman said that “Cajayon failed to show that she has exerted earnest effort to ensure that KACI liquidated the second tranches of the subject funds and her failure to do so could only mean that she benefitted from the transaction, or that she was grossly negligent in her contractual obligation, making her liable for the offenses charged.”
Ombudsman ConchitaCarpio Morales said that “Cajayon, is after all, accountable for the funds, because she has control, if not actual custody, of the funds, as these funds cannot be released without her prior consent and directives.”
The Ombudsman added that “the concerned DSWD officers did not even bother to conduct a due diligence audit on KACI and its suppliers. Instead, they accepted the sole representation of Cajayon and KACI to undertake the projects in contravention of existing procurement laws and regulations. Further, they processed the release of Cajayon’s PDAF to KACI on the sole basis of the indorsement letter and project design.”
In the related administrative case, Montaño,Cabrera and Sarino were found guilty of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
They were ordered dismissed from the service and meted the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, forfeiture of retirement benefits and a bar from taking the civil service examination.
In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to one year’s salary. (PNA)