Ombudsman orders Joel Villanueva's dismissal over ₱10-M PDAF case

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(File photo) Sen. Joel Villanueva

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered Sen. Emmanuel Joel Villanueva dismissed from government service over irregularities found in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) projects during his term as party-list representative.

Villanueva was found guilty of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service.

"I already filed a motion for reconsideration before the Ombudsman, and will leave it to the Senate President to act on the Ombudsman's order. In any case, my faith is strong in the judicial system and in time, justice will be served," Villanueva said.

Villanueva said that it's "an old case when I was a representative of CIBAC in Congress."

"In addition, the NBI has already made a conclusion that the signatures on the related documents were forged. One of the documents even used a Buhay partylist letterhead, when I was representing CIBAC partylist," Villanueva added.

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Villanueva, who garnered the second most number of votes in the senatorial race last May, served as a party-list representative for Citizens' Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) from 2001 to 2010.

Ombudsman Morales has already directed Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to implement the dismissal order.

In a press release, the Ombudsman said Villanueva and nine others were liable for P10 million in PDAF funds meant "for the implementation of agri-based livelihood projects in the various congressional districts in Region XI."

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Also included in the charge sheet are former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap, Villanueva's staff Ronald Samonte, DA employee Delia Ladera, NABCOR representatives Alan Javellana, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Rhodora Mendoza, and Maria Ninez Guanizo; and Aaron Foundation Philippines, Inc. (AFPI) President Alfredo Ronquillo.

"To utilize the P10 million PDAF, respondents purchased pechay, radish, sitaw, okra, hybrid yellow corn seedlings, liquid fertilizers and threshers from MJ Rickson Trading Corporation," the press release stated.

The items purchased were supposed to benefit the residents of the municipalities of Pantukan, Nabunturan, Tambongon, Bongabong, Napnapan, Mipangi, Anislagan and Magsaysay in the Compostela Valley province.

Investigators found that the areas where the projects were to be implemented "were not suitable for farming as the vast majority of land is occupied by banana and coconut plantations."

The report also said that "the supposed beneficiaries of the projects were not registered voters or residents of the province."

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Status quo

The Senate President has 30 days to carry out the order after receipt of the dismissal copy — in this case beginning November 2. Some senators, however, are questioning the power of the Ombudsman to unseat an incumbent senator given the act was allegedly committed when Villanueva was still a party-list solon.

Meantime, Villanueva remains a senator pending a decision on his appeal.

CNN Philippines' Cecille Lardizabal contributed to this report.