Sandiganbayan orders Honasan’s arrest in PDAF misuse case

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Gregorio Honasan joint session martial law extension
Senator Gregorio Honasan addresses his peers, in News5 video grab file.

MANILA – Senator Gregorio Honasan II has been ordered arrested by the Second Division of the Sandiganbayan for the alleged misuse of P30 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2012.

According to the Philippine Star, the Sandiganbayan found “sufficient probable cause” to order the arrest of and conduct a trial of the lawmaker for graft raps filed by the Ombudsman on August 1.

Photo by Elizabeth Marcelo, Philippine Star.

In a statement, Honasan said, “I am completely innocent of the charges against me. All my life I have fought everything I am accused of, and I will continue to do so.”

Senate sources, meanwhile, said the senator was expected to personally appear at the Sandigan anytime today.

Others ordered arrested were Honasan’s aide Michael Benjamin and six others: Mehol Kiram Sadain, Fedelina Dimalanta Aldenese, Olga Sajise Galido, Giovanni Manuel Gaerlan, and Salvador Gaerlan.

According to a press release in September 2016, the Ombudsman had found that in April 2012, the Department of Budget and Management released P30 million as part of Honasan’s PDAF, with the National Council of Muslim Filipinos as the implementing agency.

“The fund was intended to finance small and medium enterprise/livelihood projects for the benefit of Muslim Filipinos in communities in the National Capital Region and Zambales,” the Office of the Ombudsman said.

Based on documents, the Ombudsman saw that in June 2012, Honasan endorsed Focus Development Goals Foundation, Inc. as an NGO partner “without the benefit of compliance with procurement regulations.”

But “the check dated 30 May 2012 and disbursement voucher approving the payment were prepared by public respondents in favor of [the nongovernmental organization] even before:

(1) the NGO was informed that it was found qualified to undertake the project on 04 June 2012;

(2) the MOA was signed by the Office of Senator Honasan, NCMF and Focus; and

(3) Honasan authorized the release of funds to Focus.”

The Office of the Ombudsman added that Honasan and the others “facilitated and approved the payment in favor of Focus via two tranches totaling P29.1 million.”