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Plunder for P900 M Malampaya fund misuse


LIFE’S INSPIRATIONS: “… Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come…” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, the Holy Bible).  

PLUNDER FOR P900 M MALAMPAYA FUND MISUSE: Justice Secretary Leila De Lima hit the nail on the head by summoning the mayors, past or present, whose names appear as having requested for, or received, parts of the P900 million from the Malampaya gas fund which, though intended to rehabilitate towns and cities devastated by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009, were allegedly stolen by a businesswoman and her family.

When the mayors appear either before the Department of Justice or the National Bureau of Investigation, their statements could already be taken, and then utilized as evidence in any criminal case that maybe filed against the businesswoman and her family, and all the government officials who may have conspired with them in pocketing the P900 million.    

The case that could be filed is plunder, under Republic Act 7080, which, because it is punishable with life imprisonment, is non-bailable, and would ensure the imprisonment of all those involved while the case is being tried. In particular, pocketing millions from the Malampaya gas fund constitutes “misappropriation, conversion, misuse, or malversation of public funds or raids on the public treasury” under Section 1 (d) (1) of the law.                         

DE LIMA MUST SUMMON MANY MORE: But then, if De Lima wants a wider probe, she must also summon former mayors and congressmen whose names were also included as recipients of the P750 or so million agricultural fertilizer fund from the Arroyo government in 2004. Since the DOJ and the NBI have already started investigating the misuse of billions in government funds under the former regime, they might as well cast a wider net.            

I am sure that these former mayors and congressmen could provide a wealth of evidence that would unlock the doors to more misuse of government funds under the Arroyo presidency. The fact is that, there is a list of these former mayors and congressmen from the Commission on Audit (if my memory serves me right), complete with the amounts they were supposed to have received.  

I am aware of this list because I was given a copy, which I used to write columns naming the congressmen and mayors at that time, together with the fertilizer money that they were supposed to have received. The list scandalized many of those named therein, including then Quezon City 3rd District Rep. Maria Theresa Defensor, who was said to have received P5 million for fertilizers in “farms” in the city. Defensor is a sister of Mike, a close political ally of President Arroyo.                                                           

MODERATING GREED IN GOVERNMENT: When the late Sen. Raul Roco asked me to run for the Senate under his Aksiyon Demokratiko Party in 2004—his second attempt for the presidency—he gave me that list, together with other documents which could be used to jumpstart an investigation. Faced with stonewalling officials, I filed a petition with the Supreme Court to compel the Arroyo government to make available copies of those documents.    

That petition was dismissed by the court, but then, it was actually overtaken by other developments that led to the murder of a woman journalist from Mindanao. Now, with De Lima and the NBI pursuing the investigation of these fund scandals, the death of the woman journalist may not have been wasted after all. In fact, if De Lima plays it right, it might even make her president of this country some day. 

In the meantime, it is well for everyone—in government and in the private sector—to remember that it does not pay to be too greedy, especially with respect to government funds, for sooner or later, we will have to account for what we have done. According to Ecclesiastes 12:14, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”                                                           

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By Atty. Batas Mauricio

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