Former CDO rep convicted of corruption claims he is innocent

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 06 February) — “I am innocent. They (prosecutors) have no evidence against me,” a former three-term Congressman who later served  as city mayor, said on Friday after the Sandiganbayan convicted him and Janet Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam, for graft and malversation.

“I will be filing a motion for reconsideration within five days for the Sandiganbayan to correct itself because I am not guilty,”  Constantino Jaraula, Representative of  the then lone district of Cagayan de Oro from 1998 to 2007 and Mayor from 2007 to 2010, told MindaNews by phone Friday night.

In a 103-page decision penned by Associate Justice Edgardo M. Caldona, the Sandiganbayan found Napoles and Jaraula guilty of pocketing at least P20.8 million in kickbacks from the lawmaker’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The decision by the Sandiganbayan First division released on Friday, convicted Jaraula and Napoles and three others of three counts of graft and three counts of malversation.

The sentence for one count of each crime ranges from six to 18 years imprisonment.

The Sandiganbayan ordered Jaraula, Napoles, two officials of the Technological Resource Center (TRC), a government agency,  and Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc. (CARED), a non-government organization operated by Napoles, to return to the government at least 56 million pesos.

Apart from graft and malversation, Jaraula was also convicted for direct bribery, the anti-graft court saying he received at least ₱2 million in kickbacks from Napoles when he partnered with CARED  in the implementation of his PDAF-funded livelihood program for farmers in the lone district of Cagayan de Oro in 2007.

Those convicted can still appeal the decision.

Jaraula said he had nothing to do with the release of Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) to the Technological Resource Center, a government agency and Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc. (CARED) allegedly operated by Napoles.

“I only dealt with the speaker of the House and the appropriations committee. I do not even know Napoles and Benhur Luy,” said Jaraula, who served as congressman of the then lone district of Cagayan de Oro for three terms, from 1998 to 2007.

He said he was on his last months as member of the 13th Congress (2004 to 2007) when House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., informed him P30 million was available for his countryside development.

Jaraula, who will be 84 in June, said he planned to use the money to buy solar dryers, water pumps and farm fertilizers for Cagayan de Oro.

“I did not know that the TRC assigned the SARO to CARED of Napoles,” he said.

Jaraula vehemently denied the allegations from whistleblower Benhur Luy that he knew him since 2002 and had “interacted” with him regarding his PDAF transactions.

Luy, a relative of Napoles who earlier served as her aide,  alleged that money was exchanged with Jaraula on the ground floor of the building owned by Napoles in Manila.  Jaraula denied this allegation.

CNN Philippines reported on Friday that Luy “testified that he transacted with Jaraula, and even gave him the rebates, as evidenced by his daily disbursement reports which even matched public records of deposits made to the accounts of CARED and Jaraula.”

The Sandiganbayan ruling said the prosecution “was able to show that the accused, through their concerted acts, with evident bad faith and manifest partiality, gave CARED, and in turn, accused Napoles, unwarranted benefits.” (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)