Arroyo, 3 Cabinet men charged with plunder

Arroyo, 3 Cabinet men charged with plunder
WEALTH SOURCE The Malampaya gas platform located 80 kilometers northwest of the coast of Palawan.

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, three of her Cabinet secretaries and 20 others were charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday for allegedly stealing P900 million (S$26 million) from the Malampaya Fund meant for impoverished victims of back-to-back storms in 2009.

In a letter-complaint, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the National Bureau of Investigation recommended that a preliminary investigation be conducted to determine if a case merited trial in the Sandiganbayan against the 24 who have allegedly diverted and "stolen" the fund coursed through the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in a scheme arranged by Janet Lim-Napoles.

Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, is among those named respondent with Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, who is under hospital arrest for plunder in the alleged misuse of funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

Also charged were Arroyo's Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and his undersecretary Narciso Nieto, Budget Secretary and now Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., and his undersecretary Mario Relampagos, and Candaba Mayor Rene Maglanque.

De Lima said the lack of specificity in Arroyo's and Ermita's identification of the authorised purpose by which the Department of Budget and Management could access the Malampaya Fund resulted in almost discretionary, if not arbitrary, granting of implementing agency requests for millions of pesos in funds by the DBM.

This, De Lima said, happened without the submission of any agency work or development plan showing that the funds will actually be used for the purpose authorised by the President.

"This leniency control displayed by the then President in the use of and access to an essentially presidential discretionary fund made possible the plunder of such fund, either intentionally or through gross inexcusable negligence," De Lima added.

Also included in the charge sheet were DAR officials led by Teresita Panlilio, then director of finance and management administration office and presently officer in charge of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council secretariat; and Angelita Cacananta, Nilda Baui, Dominador Sison Jr. and Ronald Venancio.

The private respondents included Napoles, her relatives, presidents and staff of her nongovernment organisations (NGOs).

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