Aquino may face fund scam raps after term ends

Aquino may face fund scam raps after term ends

President Aquino faces possible criminal charges at the end of his term unless Malacañang accounts for billions of pesos in the government's share of revenues from the operation of oil and gas wells in Malampaya off Palawan province, Sen. Ralph Recto said on Monday.

Citing his study of Department of Budget and Management (DBM) documents, Recto said the government had collected some P170 billion (S$5 billion) in revenues from the Malampaya project since 2002.

The Arroyo administration has disbursed P25 billion (S$724 million) , and the Aquino administration, P15 billion (S$434 million), leaving a balance of P130 billion (S$3.8 billion) in the Malampaya Fund, Recto said.

"If you ask the DBM about the P130 billion (S$3.8 billion) that we have collected in cash, it's gone," Recto told reporters after chairing the finance subcommittee hearing on the 2014 budget of the Department of Science and Technology. "I'm not blaming the Aquino administration here. I'm just saying, 'Let's put our house in order.'"

Recto said it was about time the DBM explained how the Malampaya Fund was disbursed and how much of it remained from years of collection.

"What about income from Malampaya? Can you spend it for unprogrammed funds? All this should be clarified in the 2014 budget so we won't make things difficult for the President. A string of charges have been filed against our Presidents. In the past, we have removed two Presidents. We have one who is detained. Should we allow this to happen again and again without fixing the system?" he said.

After he was ousted in 2001, President Joseph Estrada was convicted of plunder and was pardoned by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, is under hospital arrest on plunder charges for alleged misuse of funds from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. Like the Malampaya Fund, the PCSO fund is not part of the general budget.

Recto voiced his concerns four days after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima sent a letter complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman, charging former President Arroyo, three of her Cabinet secretaries and 20 others with plunder for allegedly stealing P900 million from the Malampaya Fund allocated for victims of Tropical Storms "Ondoy" and "Pepeng" in 2009.

De Lima said Arroyo was being charged for her alleged "leniency" in the use of the fund. Her budget secretary, Rolando Andaya Jr., now a House representative, has protested that he was being charged as a conspirator in the plunder case for performing a purely ministerial function.

Recto is the first administration ally in the Senate to warn Malacañang of its potential criminal liability for misuse of state funds in the wake of the P10-billion pork barrel scam engineered by detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)-impounded government savings from which was sourced, according to the DBM, allocations ranging from P50 million to P100 million given to senators who voted for the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.

Former Sen. Joker Arroyo, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas have said the use of the DAP to pump-prime the economy coursed through the senators as pork barrel funds was illegal.

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