DOJ clears Visayan Forum of charges in connection with USAID grant

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has cleared a non-government organization (NGO) of estafa charges in connection with a USAID grant.

A statement from the Visayan Forum released on Friday said, the decision, signed on July 29 by Sr. Assistant State Prosecutor Merba A. Waga, Sr. Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore M. Villanueva, and approved by Prosecutor General Claro A. Arellano shows that further preliminary investigations were not conducted due to lack of evidence.

The statement mentioned that the resolution said, "thus, it is clear that the alleged falsified documents which were purportedly used as supporting documents to liquidate the funds they claimed VFFI received from the USAID and made the basis of their complaint cannot support the charges filed against the herein respondents. There is no gainsaying that the complaint filed against the herein respondents has no leg to stand on."

In 2012, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) conducted a probe of the NGO for allegedly falsifying documents to hide the misuse of a $2.1 million grant from USAID.

Ma.-Cecilia-Flores-Oebanda.jpg Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda (center), founding president of the Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.  

Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. (VFFI) founding president, said, "I'm thankful to DOJ that after more than four years of patiently and humbly waiting to allow the justice system to take its course, we can put this allegation behind us."

Flores-Oebanda added the NGO can now "move forward" and concentrate on fulfilling their mission to help victims and survivors of human trafficking.

The VVFI is a non-profit, non-government organization that helps domestic workers and survivors of human trafficking.