FORMER Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral is facing two counts of graft before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court in connection with a P9.4-million pork barrel fund scam.
Also charged in the case are Cotabato Vice Gov. Gregorio Ipong, Undersecretary Mateo Montaño, chief accountant Leonila Hayahay and Roberto Solon of the Economic and Social Cooperation for Local Development Foundation Inc.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said Ipong was found responsible for the anomalous use of his P9.4-million Priority Development Assistance Fund issued through a special release allotment order in January 2007, when he was a representative of North Cotabato.
The fund was supposed to help the poor and marginalized sectors of Ipong’s constituents in North Cotabato’s District 2 through medical missions, health materials and various medicines worth P400,000 and capacity building/livelihood capital assistance for 75 marginal families in extremely difficult circumstances pegged at P9 million, or P120,000 per family.
The Ombudsman’s field investigators found that Ipong had instructed that the fund be downloaded to Social Welfare as implementing agency through the ECOSOC as a non-government organization-partner.
A verification conducted by the Ombudsman found that “a majority of the supposed beneficiaries denied receipt of the purported assistance.”
Certifications and affidavits from city, municipal and village officials were obtained by the Ombudsman to prove that the PDAF was used to finance Ipong’s ghost projects.
Key documents were obtained showing the absence of due diligence audit of the ECOSOC over its financial incapability to implement multi-million- peso projects because it had only P56,000 in capital.
The respondents also failed to comply with the requirement of public bidding.
The medicine supplier, Ace Pharmaceuticals, denied engaging in any business transaction with ECOSOC relative to the supply of medicines.
The board of trustees of the NGOs also denied any knowledge of the transactions entered into by ECOSOC with DSWD.
The NGO issued a letter to the Commission on Audit stating “the persons involved must have used their NGO for their own personal and unauthorized purpose.”
“Cabral, then Social Welfare secretary, prepared, reviewed and entered into the memorandum of agreement governing the implementation of the projects,” Morales said.
“Instead of using the PDAF disbursements received by them to implement the livelihood projects, respondents diverted these sums amounting to P9.4 million to their own pockets.
“The role played by each of them was so indispensable to the success of their scheme that, without any of them, the same would have failed.”
Ipong and Montaño were also found guilty of grave misconduct.
The Ombudsman ordered their dismissal from the service and perpetual disqualification from holding public office with forfeiture of all their retirement benefits.
In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondents’ salary for one year.
Last October, the Ombudsman found Ipong also liable for the misuse of his P10-million pork barrel in 2007 coursed through the Aaron Foundation Inc.