Issue of October 12, 2014

Baguio Day Anniversary Issue
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Ex–Benguet solon maintains innocence in PDAF misuse
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

Former Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa asserted he was not involved in the Priority Development Assistance Fund anomaly and has not misused public money during his term in the light of recent reports of charges filed against him.

Dangwa is one of the public officials facing either plunder, malversation and graft charges filed before the Office of the Ombudsman by the National Bureau of Investigation and Field Investigation Office.

The Office of the Ombudsman, among other findings, said it found probable cause that the former representative coursed through P54 million in PDAF from 2001 to 2010 to various bogus non-government organizations used by Janet Lim-Napoles in the pork barrel scam. He is indicted for malversation and six counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act along with his chiefs of staff Erwin Dangwa and Carlos Lozada.

He also faces five counts of direct bribery.

In an interview Friday, Dangwa’s legal counsel Edgar Avila said they have yet to receive a copy of the charges, which they just learned through the media last Oct. 3. He said they will answer the charges, though he decried the one-sidedness of the process.

“It is a bit unfair. Accusations are not synonymous to guilt. The problem is that they investigate without getting our side. Then the charges are announced by the Department of Justice secretary. Meron sanang due process.”

Avila stressed Dangwa had no control of his PDAF from the beginning. “There is no malversation if you do not have control of the money. Here, the one in control is DBM, so how can we say there was a malversation?”

He said the former congressman never met Napoles, whistleblower Benhur Luy and the other witnesses and has never been to Napoles’s office in Ortigas, Pasig City.

Avila said they will conduct their own investigation about the documents Luy submitted, which based on his testimony, bore signatures of lawmakers that they falsified.

He said this may exonerate the congressman, who from the start, never confirmed the authenticity of any of the documents connected with PDAF releases and as noted in the Commission on Audit’s Special Audits Office Report 2012-03.

“We maintain that at the time he was identifying NGOs, it is part of his constitutional duty. The congressman merely identified projects. The release of money is done by DBM.”

Avila added his client, considering his old age, is affected by the charges having tainted his name. In a statement, Dangwa lamented “suggestions of complicity between Napoles and legislators that have been loosely tossed around in just about every forum there is, without regard for the correctness of the basis for such suggestions.”

Dangwa, however, welcome the elevation of the investigation to a more formal level despite having not heard by the DOJ or the NBI as should have been the process, “even if it would mean more vilification of his person before the bar of public opinion.”

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