DON’T GET mad. Sue.
That’s what Feliciano Mendoza and three of his fellow former barangay captains decided to do after they said they found out their signatures had been forged for a pork-barrel project way back in 2007.
Citing conspiracy between the seven incorporators/board of trustees of a nongovernment organization (NGO) and a then Bulacan district representative from whose PDAF the NGO's funds were sourced, the four ex-barangay captains from Bulacan brought their case to the Office of the Ombudsman. There they filed criminal charges against the seven incorporators/trustees of the NGO and the former Bulacan legislator for violation of Republic No. Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and for falsification of public documents. They also filed administrative charges against the former legislator for "grave misconduct and serious dishonesty."
The barangay captains filed their cases merely weeks apart, between Jan. 30 to Feb. 22, 2012. The rest of the 12 barangay captains implicated in the case are said to be either still thinking of what to do next or trying to get over their fear of reprisal.
The former district representative is now San Rafael, Bulacan Mayor Lorna C. Silverio. The now defunct NGO is Mandaluyong-based Economic and Social Cooperation for Local Development Foundation, Inc. or ECOSOC.
Silverio declined to be interviewed for this story, noting that the case is already pending before the Ombudsman. But in her counter-affidavit submitted to the Ombudsman, Silverio says she merely "gave her nod of approval to the proposed Livelihood Capital Assistance to marginalized families” in her district. She “never consented” to the giving out of loans; neither was she furnished a copy of the list of beneficiaries that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) supposedly asked ECOSOC to submit, she says.
Among the documents attached to Silverio's reply to the Ombudsman is a copy of her letter “strongly” endorsing ECOSOC to DSWD to be the implementer of the Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (CIDSS) project in the 3rd District of Bulacan “chargeable against my PDAF.” Silverio’s endorsement letter came with the ECOSOC's proposal for a “medical and livelihood capital assistance project" in the district. The estimated project cost of P9 million was supposed to serve 73 families “in extremely difficult circumstance.” Silverio says though, that the original project proposed by ECOSOC to her office was later revised by the NGO and ultimately approved by DSWD without her knowledge.
The former congresswoman also alleges that there are political motives behind the charges filed against her. Mendoza, Silverio says, is identified with her rival party.
ECOSOC's incorporators/trustees, meanwhile, have either distanced themselves from the NGO or disowned it outright.
PCIJ was able to obtain the counter affidavits submitted to the Ombudsman of four out of the seven incorporators of ECOSOC. Curiously, one of the incorporators, himself a former congressman, also claims to have been a victim of forgery by the NGO. The ex-legislator says he never signed on to become an incorporator of the organization.
Another incorporator says he had ceased to be a trustee of ECOSOC since 2005. Because the project was supposedly implemented from January 2007-January 2008, he knows nothing about it.
Two other incorporators/trustees say they do not know anything about the alleged project in Bulacan and that they never knew of any project by the ECOSOC that used government funds. One of them also says two of the original incorporators were foreigners who “never showed up,” after ECOSOC was incorporated in October 2000.
That leaves only one incorporator who has yet to file his reply to the charges. That missing link is the very person who had signed the MOA with DSWD and Silverio on behalf of the NGO. He is also the signatory in the disbursement vouchers in question.
Too, an incorporator claims that the NGO “has been inactive for some time” and that the NGO's last known project was a training program conducted in 2007.
Yet, between 2007 and 2008, ECOSOC was able to get several CIDSS projects approved by DSWD per the department's database. During that period, three other congressmen besides Silverio had apparently channeled their PDAF to ECOSOC: 1st District, Northern Samar Rep. Paul Daza; 2nd District, North Cotabato Rep. Gregorio Ipong; and 2nd District, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Alfonso Umali. Of the funds transferred to ECOSOC, P17.8 million remain unaccounted for to this day, according to DSWD records. – With additional research and reporting by Anne Ednalyn dela Cruz, PCIJ, July 2012