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Philippine govt OK'd US$2m pork barrel funds
Publication Date : 01-08-2013
The Philippine government had approved of the US$2 million pork barrel fund two years ago, through a bogus agency
The office of Philippines' Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala endorsed the release of 89.2 million pesos (US$2 million) two years ago through a bogus agency allegedly owned by Janet Lim-Napoles despite tightened accreditation by the Department of Agriculture (DA) of nongovernment organisations (NGOs), the Inquirer learned on Wednesay.
Levito Baligod, counsel of pork scam whistle-blower Benhur Luy, said his client had documents, including special allotment release orders (Saro), showing that 11 pet projects of eight representatives in the 15th Congress used Kaupdanan para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (KPMI), which was allegedly set up by Napoles.
At press time, Alcala had not replied to a request for comment by the Inquirer on the claim of Baligod, whose client blew the whistle on Napoles’ activities in a series of statements earlier submitted to the NBI. Luy’s claims have been affirmed by the five other whistle-blowers.
Napoles has denied any wrongdoing.
“I am not Superman,” Alcala said Wednesday.
“The department has 40 attached agencies and I can’t memorise everything. But in good faith, I do not sign anything that has not passed the scrutiny of my staff,” he said.
He was reacting to an earlier Inquirer report on Wednesday. He had ordered an inquiry into the alleged involvement of an official of the Department of Agriculture in the activities of dummy nongovernment organisations (NGOs) that were said to have channelled state funds to ghost projects in schemes purportedly masterminded by Napoles.
He said he had sent a memo to Ophelia P. Agawin, assistant secretary for finance, to explain why pork barrel scam whistle-blower Merlina P. Sunas was implicating his office as a conduit of funds to bogus NGOs.
Asked how well he knew Agawin, Alcala said, “She goes to work religiously.”
“But we can’t base things on appearances. She needs to explain (the issue),” said the former congressman.
In an interview with the Inquirer, Sunas identified at least three livelihood projects worth a combined 16 million pesos that were implemented by a Napoles NGO in Davao City, which used DA funds.
“Surely, I don’t know about those (projects),” Alcala said, adding that he had also ordered a “revalidation” of DA-accredited NGOs and projects.
He said he did not remember having signed any of the projects that Sunas mentioned.
Sumas said the three projects were worth 3 million pesos, 5 million pesos and 8 million pesos, respectively, all of which supposedly involved the distribution of packages that included fertiliser and sprayers.
She said that only the 3-million peso project was implemented for show while the two other projects were mere “ghost deliveries”.
Kaupdanan was one of the 20 dummy NGOs set up by Napoles’ JLN Corp. which allegedly had managed to fleece 10 billion pesos in state funds over the last 10 years in connivance with lawmakers and government officials.
Luy submitted the documents to the National Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday, the second day of closed-door hearings called to question officials and incorporators of the dummy companies, Baligod said.
The 31-year-old Luy was summoned as principal whistle-blower and president of Napoles’ Social Development programme for Farmers Foundation Inc.
LP members, too
The 89.2 million pesos released by Alcala came from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of eight representatives, including members of the ruling Liberal Party and party-list groups.
Baligod said that his client, as well as the other five whistle-blowers who also were former Napoles employees, had evidence not only against opposition lawmakers but also administration legislators.
“We are not looking if the people involved are members of the Liberal Party, Nacionalista or other parties. What we will name will be those in the documents,” he said.
Luy earlier implicated five senators and 23 House members in the alleged Napoles racket.
The lawmakers named in the documents, according to Baligod, were:
– Masbate Rep. Scott Davies Lanete
– Lanao del Sur Rep. Mohammed Hussein Pangandaman
– An Waray Rep. Neil Benedict Montejo
– Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab
– Bukidnon Rep. Florencio Flores Jr.
– Abante Mindanao Rep. Maximo Rodriguez
– Camarines Sur Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella
– Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Lagdameo Jr.
Baligod said that it would be “very interesting” to see how the Department of Agriculture would liquidate these releases.
He said that the department, acting on mounting reports of bogus NGOs accessing state funds, had included KPMI on its list of 15 to 20 accredited NGOs even though the JLN affiliate was under investigation for its involvement in the release of 900 million pesos worth of Malampaya funds by then Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman to fake Napoles agencies in 2009.
Baligod provided the Inquirer with a Commission on Audit (COA) letter to KPMI president John Raymund de Asis, an employee of Napoles, dated Nov 6, 2012, demanding proof of receipt or delivery for the 75 million pesos worth of agriculture inputs that it committed to buy with the Malampaya funds it obtained from Pangandaman for eight towns in northern and central Luzon.
The COA said that the liquidation documents submitted by KPMI to the Department of Agrarian Reform did not have official receipts, sales invoices and delivery receipts. The commission also asked KPMI to reveal the addresses of the beneficiaries and the criteria on how they were selected.
No funds from pork
Alcala said the DA had stopped channelling funds from lawmakers’ pork barrel since 2011 and that, following a stringent screening process, there were now only 26 DA-accredited NGOs.
Asked whether President Aquino still trusted him, Alcala replied by saying he just had lunch with the chief executive.
“He seems to be satisfied at what I have reported to him, and I’m sure he would not have shared a meal with me if I did not enjoy his confidence,” Alcala said.