A HIGH-RANKING former official of the Arroyo administration yesterday expressed confidence that he will be acquitted of the downgraded multiple criminal charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman against him before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the alleged P900-million Malampaya Fund scam.
“I welcome the filing of the case, confident that at the end, when my side will be fully heard and the evidence I submit will be appreciated, truth will prevail and I shall be acquitted of the charges against me,” said Rolando Andaya Jr., now a Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur congressman.
“I have full faith in our justice system even as I wish that the case will proceed in a fair and fast manner,” said Andaya.
Andaya explained that the charges were downgraded after the Ombudsman only filed graft and malversation through falsification of public documents instead of plunder cases.
“Let me note that the charges have been downgraded from plunder to malversation, which means that the original indictment actively sought has been debunked,” said Andaya.
Andaya was charged with conspiring with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now a Pampanga congresswoman, in tapping the Malampaya Funds for the rehabilitation of Ondoy-damaged areas.
However, the Ombudsman dismissed the case against Arroyo, despite the fact that it was she who ordered Andaya to release the funds.
The respondents were accused of diverting P900 million from the Malampaya funds allocated by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 2009 and in the process using 12 Janet Lim Napoles-led non-government organizations (NGOs) as conduits to the alleged fraud.
Aside from Andaya, the Ombudsman filed criminal charges against former Budget Usec. Mario Relampagos, former Agrarian Reform Sec. Nasser Pangandaman, ex-DAR officials Narciso Nieto, Teresita Panlilio, Angelita Cacananta, and Ronald Venancio.
Also charged were Napoles, the alleged pork barrel fund scam mastermind, her children Jo Christine Napoles and James Christopher Napoles.
The Ombudsman also charged private respondents Rene Maglanque, Reynald Lim, Ruby Tuason, Evelyn de Leon, Ronald Lim, Ronald John Lim, Eulogio Rodriguez, Simplicio Gumafelix John Raymund de Asis, Rodrigo Galay, Alejandro Garro, Paquito Dinso Jr., Gerald Apuang, Napoleon Sibayan and Winnie Villanueva.