Pimentel files raps vs agriculture officials

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

SENATOR Aquilino Pimentel III filed criminal and administrative complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman against several Department of Agriculture (DA) officials who allegedly falsified his signatures in connection with the alleged anomalous P10-million organic fertilizer fund project.

Agriculture undersecretary for administration and finance Antonio Fleta together with DA supervising administrative officer Delia Ladera, Charie Sarah Saquing, department chief accountant; and Telma Tolentino, officer-in-charge, budget division were accused of falsification and violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials.

Pimentel said the document dated October 2012 bearing his signature and the Senate letterhead was forged.

"[They make] it appear that I participated in an act requesting the release of P30 million for Agro Industrial Enhancement through organic farming, as well as choosing/identifying Surigao del Sur as the beneficiary of P10-million for organic related activities [under my office's fund], when in fact I did not perform any such acts," he said.

"The falsification of my signature in a falsified letter made to appear as having originated from my office, became the basis for the unlawful disbursement of government funds, amounting to at least P10 million from the General Appropriations Fund purportedly for marginal families," he added.

Pimentel said that Kabataan party-list Representative Terry Ridon told him during the bicameral conference meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives last September 24 that he saw during a hearing of the House on Department of Agriculture's budget, a memorandum of agreement between the DA and the senator's office.

"I was prompted to verify how -- based on the MOA -- it was made to appear that I participated in an act requesting the DA the release of P30 million and choosing Surigao del Sur as beneficiary of P10 million… [The] truth is, I never participated in any such transaction," he said.

The lawmaker also said that in the investigation of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy said that the alleged syndicate led by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles is operating in the agriculture department, adding that the execution of the MOA was done in the office of Fleta.

"Luy, under oath, confirmed this elaborate scheme of using supposed letters of legislators as part of the modus operandi to illegally release and disburse government funds, involving Fleta and Napoles," he said.

Pimentel, however, admitted that he met Napoles when she offered a project to him, but he rejected it.

"Not dealt but met… Yes, I've met with her in May of 2012 at humingi nga ng project sa PDAF at tinanggihan ko. If ever I am included in the so called Napoles list, it's bad faith on her part to include me there," he said. (Sunnex)

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