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Ombudsman rebukes senator’s claim vs House leader

By Manuel T. Ugalde


THE Office of the Ombudsman has rebuked Senator Joel Villanueva for his claims against Ako Bicol Partylist Congressman Elizaldy Co, who chairs the Congress appropriation committee.


Villanueva accused Rep. Co of having cases before the Ombudsman related to the controversial People’s Initiative. He was among the vocal senators opposing the charter change move, which former Duterte spokesman Harry Roque claimed originated in Bicol through what proponents called a People’s Initiative.


The controversy involved an alleged P100 payout for every signature collected for the change of the constitution. Former AKB congressman Alfredo Garbin was implicated as a key figure in Albay for the controversial People’s Initiative. He vehemently denied offering the P100 assistance for the signatories.


The Senate accused the Congress appropriation committee of being behind the release of funds for what it referred to as “Pirma,” which Co denied. Co went so far as to tag Villanueva as a senator allegedly projecting himself as immaculately clean, citing his strong ties and close friendship with pork barrel queen Janet Napoles.


Co also accused Villanueva of having been ordered suspended by the Ombudsman in connection to his pork barrel, which was channeled through Napoles’ bogus network.


In addition to Villanueva, Senators Jingoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Bong Revilla were among those punished by the Ombudsman for using Napoles’ NGO as a tool in implementing their graft-tainted pork barrel funds.


In retaliation, Villanueva accused Co of allegedly facing tax evasion cases from the Bureau of Internal Revenue involving his owned Sunwest Corp and alleged cases filed against him before the Ombudsman. According to Villanueva, Sunwest was implicated in the P12 billion Pharmally and Education Department laptop scandal.


However, the Ombudsman issued statements clarifying that Co does not have any pending cases nor is under investigation from the Ombudsman.


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