Sandigan junks NLDC officials’quash bid

The Sandiganbayan has junked the bids of two ex-officials of the state-run National Livelihood and Development Corp. to quash graft and malversation raps filed against them in connection with their alleged involvement in the misappropriation of P5-million pork barrel funds of ex-La Union Rep. Victor Francisco Ortega.

Finding sufficient evidence to sustain their indictment on the charges, the
anti-graft court’s Second Division denied the motions of NLDC president Gondelina Amata and assets management division chief Gregoria Buenaventura seeking leave of court to file demurrers to evidence.

Amata and Buenaventura were indicted of graft and malversation of public funds along with Ortega and businesswoman Janet-Lim Napoles — the alleged pork barrel mastermind — for the misuse of the lawmaker’s pork barrel funds or Priority Development Assistance Fund amounting to P5 million.

The Ombudsman, which filed the case in, said Amata and Buenaventura colluded with Napoles and former Energy Regulatory Commission chair Zenaida Ducut.

The NLDC erstwhile officials were accused of funneling Ortega’s P5 million PDAF supposedly for the implementation of livelihood projects to the bogus non-government organization Social Development Program for Farmer’s Foundation Inc. or SDPFFI, believed to be governed by Napoles, in exchange for kickbacks.

However, Amata and Buenaventura both argued in their motion that the prosecution failed to prove that it was indeed a conspiracy and there is no competent evidence supporting the allegations.

Moreover, Amata contended that PDAF was repeatedly upheld as valid and constitutional.

In November 2013, the Supreme Court ruled PDAF unconstitutional as it became a source of corruption.

The prosecution, in response, countered that the evidence on record established that Amata and Buenaventura’s participation in the scheme that permitted the release of funds to SDPFFI are both “essential.”

“The validity and constitutionality of PDAF are not in issue, as the charge against the accused is hinged on the illegality of the utilization, disbursement, and release of PDAF to an incompetent, non-qualified and bogus SDPFFI that resulted in misappropriation of public funds,” the prosecution pointed out.

Meanwhile, the Sandiganbayan underlined that the case is merely a determination of whether the evidence on record is sufficient to sustain the indictment or support a verdict of guilt and does not lead to a conclusion of the guilt or innocence of the accused.

“Finding sufficient evidence to sustain the indictment for the crimes charged at this point of the trial, all the accused now bear the evidentiary burden to controvert the evidence of the prosecution,” the court said in a six-page resolution signed on 8 August.

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