Revilla letter to COA belies forgery claim

bong-revilla-jr-01202014-1
By Gil C. Cabacungan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

As early as two and a half years ago, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla acknowledged to the Commission on Audit (COA) that he approved the release of his pork barrel funds to foundations that were later alleged to have engaged in dubious deals and included those allegedly controlled by detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Revilla made the admission in a July 8, 2011, letter to Assistant Commissioner Arcadio B. Cuenco Jr., a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer. The letter debunks his claim that his signature and those of his representatives were forged—his main defense after the pork barrel scam was exposed in July last year and he was implicated in the alleged racket.

“After going through these documents and initial examination, it appears that the signatures and/or my initials on these documents are my signatures or that of my authorized representatives,” Revilla said in his letter.

The letter was part of the special audit conducted by the COA on the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) releases from 2007 to 2009 during which P503.69 million of Revilla’s pork barrel allegedly went to dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

Revilla, along with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, was named in a plunder complaint filed in the Office of the Ombudsman in September in connection with a P10-billion PDAF racket that allegedly diverted state funds into ghost projects and kickbacks purportedly engineered by Napoles.

Napoles is detained on a serious illegal detention charge involving her personal aide, Benhur Luy. She allegedly had Luy detained to prevent him from exposing her alleged multibillion-peso scam.
The senators and Napoles have all denied any wrongdoing.

Revilla is scheduled to deliver a privilege speech on the Senate floor on Monday at the resumption of its session following the holiday break.

“In the main, it’s to clear his name and affirm his commitment to the truth in the face of false allegations against him,” said Joel Bodegon, Revilla’s counsel. “More importantly, he wants those responsible, particularly the whistle-blowers led by Benhur Luy, prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Signatures authenticated

Last October, Revilla filed a civil suit in his home province Cavite accusing former employees of Napoles who had turned whistle-blowers of falsifying documents and forging his signatures on the release of P500 million of his PDAF and demanding that they return the money to the government.

In his July 8, 2011, letter, Revilla expressed gratitude to the COA for reviewing his PDAF releases.

“I appreciate the efforts being undertaken now by the COA and it also gives me the chance and opportunity to ask the various implementing agencies why it took the central office of the commission to initiate this and would not submit their own performance audit and evaluation to me directly every end of the year whether these projects and programs are effective, beneficial and were able to reach more end users and target beneficiaries. I suppose they have their annual audit report and these funds are duly included and audited on those yearly reports,” said Revilla, who requested a copy of the results of the special audit immediately.

Revilla’s letter was in response to the COA’s request that he authenticate his signatures on documents submitted by NGOs implementing his PDAF projects—National Agribusiness Corp., ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp., National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC) and Technology Resource Center. The documents included liquidation and disbursement reports, letters to Cabinet officials and implementing agency heads and project proposals and financial plans.

In a counteraffidavit, Alexis Sevidal, head of NLDC Accounts Servicing and Asset Management Group, insisted that his agency’s role in releasing Revilla’s pork was limited to documentation and liquidation as “the responsibilities of ensuring that the NGOs are legitimate and capable of implementing the projects … rest upon the lawmakers.”

Sevidal, who is among those under investigation by the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged Napoles scam, presented as evidence Revilla’s letter to NLDC chair Gondolina Amata in which the actor identified the projects, their costs (combined P135 milion) and the NGO beneficiaries (controlled by Napoles).

Earlier Revilla letter

In an earlier letter dated Aug. 17, 2009, Revilla said the Department of Budget and Management had already released the Notice of Cash Allotment for these projects and that he had appointed his chief of staff, Richard Cambe, “to monitor and assist in the implementation thereof and act and sign on my behalf all other documents needed.”

Revilla named Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (P45 million), Social Development Program For Farmers Foundation Inc. (P40 million), Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (P30 million) and Agricultura para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc. (P20 million) “as our partners in the implementation of the program.”

The four NGOs were among the 20 foundations that Luy claimed were bogus and controlled by Napoles.
Sevidal also presented a letter dated Sept. 8, 2009, from Enrile endorsing Revilla’s pet projects. Sevidal said the memorandum of agreements (MOA) signed between NLDC and Revilla’s preferred NGOs showed a “clear pattern” that the identification of the project, determination of the project cost and choice of the NGO is done by the lawmaker and Napoles and only communicated to and imposed upon NLDC, before the execution of the MOA.”

He said the MOAs were “done deals” even before NLDC entered the scheme. “Nowhere in these stages did I ever participate, as an employee of NLDC, or in my personal capacity,” Sevidal said.—With a report from TJ A. Burgonio

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