ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
5 Philippine agencies in pork scam to be abolished
Publication Date : 02-09-2013
The Palace is moving to abolish Philippine Forest Corp., the agro-forestry arm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and one of the many spigots that fake NGOs used to access pork barrel funds, according to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.
The environment secretary said Philforest president Erwin Krishna N. Santos had been suspended indefinitely while the DENR was investigating the questionable deals the company had entered into with the bogus NGOs and members of Congress.
“Some of the Philforest’s functions might go to the Bureau of Forest Management. The immediate goal is to stop the source of pork leaks,” Paje said.
Paje said President Aquino had asked the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel to study the abolition not only of Philforest but also of National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) and Zamboanga del Norte College Rubber Estates Corp. (ZREC) of the Department of Agriculture; Technology Resources Centre (TRC) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST); and, National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC) of Land Bank of the Philippines.
Paje said the president was “extremely disappointed” with how the pork barrel scam continued into his administration, specifically the release of 428.5 million pesos (US$9.6 million) in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the official name of pork barrel or funds that finance pet projects of lawmakers, through the five state companies.
The 428.5-million pesos PDAF, which came from two senators (Gregorio Honasan II and Manuel Lapid) and 24 members of the House of Representatives, was released from October 2010 to December 2011 to nine NGOs with dubious records.
The fake NGOs were Focus on Development Goals Foundation Inc., Interactive Training Opportunity on Needs Alleviation Movements Inc., Kapuso’t Kapamilya Foundation Inc., Livedures Foundation Inc., Maharlikang Lipi Foundation Inc., Philippine Environment and Ecological Development Corp., Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc., Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Inc. and Workphil Foundation Inc.
Outside Napoles network
These nine NGOs do not belong to the network of fake ones allegedly put up by detained Janet Lim-Napoles, accused of masterminding a 10-billion peso pork scam in 10 years.
After two weeks on the run, Napoles, accused of serious illegal detention of Benhur Luy, her former employee turned whistle-blower, is now detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. She surrendered to Mr. Aquino on August 28.
Paje said the Philforest board had not been informed of the fund releases to the bogus NGOs.
“I would have not allowed it since we have stopped processing all pork barrel releases through the DENR since I took over. But the pork was released directly to the Philforest which should never have been allowed because it should have gone through the budget process,” he said.
Paje said he had appointed Environment Undersecretary Analisa Teh as officer in charge “to secure documents, records and materials relevant to the investigation.”
In an October 2012 letter to the Philforest board, the Commission on Audit (COA) did not endorse the company’s financial statement for 2011 because of incomplete or missing documents.
The COA noted that the negative comments against Philforest had been recurring since the 2006 audit because management continued to ignore its recommendations, such the absence of an accounting system.
Like a shell firm
For an entity that handled close to half a billion pesos in 2011, Philforest operates like a shell corporation with no organisational structure.
Although its president and vice president are elected by the board, Philforest has a workforce of 19 temps whose contracts are renewed yearly. It has five consultants and two labourers taking care of its nursery in Limay, Bataan.
Philforest is a subsidiary of National Resources Development Corp., itself a DENR subsidiary, whose flagship programme is to propagate Jatropha for biodiesel production.
KKFI and PFI were among the 82 questionable NGOs that a COA special audit of pork barrel from 2007 and 2009 said received at least 6.165 billion pesos in the PDAF of 12 senators and 180 House members.
The COA questioned why these corporate entities allowed the NGOs to undertake the projects that they should have undertaken themselves.
The COA also wondered why the state firms chose the NGO beneficiaries based solely on the recommendation of lawmakers and why they rewarded themselves with 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent in management fees for practically doing nothing.
The Inquirer reported on August 16 that seven fake NGOs allegedly controlled by Napoles had cornered close to 1 billion pesos in pork barrel of five senators and eight representatives that was coursed mainly through NLDC. Roughly half of the funds were released between 2010 and 2012.