Not guilty — Napoles

THE Sandiganbayan yesterday entered a not guilty plea for convicted plunderer Janet Lim Napoles on her 194 criminal charges in connection with the alleged P900-million Malampaya fund scam.

Napoles, currently detained at the Correctional Institution for Women, refused to enter any plea during her arraignment Monday for 97 counts each of graft and malversation of public funds.

But the anti-graft division deferred to May 31 at 8:30 a.m. the arraignment of Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., who chairs the House Committee on Appropriations, for the same issue.

Andaya has a pending appeal on the denial of his motion to quash on the grounds that the allegations against him are fatally defective.

Andaya argued it was his duty being then the secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to approve the special allotment and release order (SARO) and the notices of cash allocation (NCA).

Earlier, the prosecutors said the Department of Agriculture (DAR) under then Sec. Nasser Pangandaman was supposed to use the P900 million Malampaya Fund to implement “relief operations, rehabilitation and reconstruction” of areas devastated by flooding caused by Tropical Storm Ondoy and Typhoon Pepeng in 2009.

Then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, now a Speaker, issued Executive Order (EO) No. 848 dated October 13, 2009, which authorized the DBM to release the Malampaya Fund to the DAR as implementing agency.

But instead of helping the farmers and stricken communities, the prosecutors said the DAR allegedly funneled the money into 13 private foundations or non-government organizations (NGOs) controlled by Napoles.