Agriculture secretary replies to criminal raps

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LUCENA CITY: Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has his count-eraffidavit to the criminal case filed against him by former mayor Ramon Talaga Jr. of Lucena before the Office of the Ombudsman.

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Talaga filed the case on behalf of 16 marginalized farmers of the Second District of Quezon province who denied receiving P50,000 each as loan assistance from the “Proceso sa Pag-asenso: Proyektong Lingap-Kalinga para sa Kabuhayan ng mga Piling Magsasaka ng Ikalawang Distrito ng Quezon”—a project funded by then-Congressman Alcala.

In his 16-page counter-affidavit dated August 7, 2013, Alcala accused Talaga of underhanded election campaign tactics using the complaint to his (Talaga) full advantage.

He claimed that the 16 farmers were beneficiaries of the project, carried out through Sir Pelagio Alcantara Development (Spade) Foundation Inc. designed to benefit 65 marginal farmer-families in the Second District of Quezon through loan assistance with interest rates of 6 percent. The project was completed on May 15, 2008, with total fund disbursements of P3.275 million.

Most, if not all, of the named beneficiaries said they did not receive the said cash assistance as attested by their respective sworn statements.

Two of the said beneficiaries, Privado Joco and Nelson Aguila, both farmer-residents of Sariaya town, attested they did not receive such amount although their signatures appeared in the disbursement voucher submitted by Spade to the Department of Social Welfare and Development Office (as monitoring agency).

He added that, “In Quezon province, Spade Foundation closely coordinated its projects through the Sentrong Pamilihan ng Produktong Agrikultura sa Quezon Foundation Inc. based in Sariaya, Quezon, and the Department of Agriculture. It was proposed that the Sentrong Pa-milihan Foundation be a co-implementor of the project with Spade Foundation.”

Alcala also submitted the sworn statements of 13 out of the 16 farmer-beneficiaries who previously swore not having received the P50,000 cash loan assistance from the “pork barrel” of Alcala.

However, they did not directly refute their former allegations but only stated under oath that their signatures on the cash vouchers submitted by Spade Foundation to DSWD were not their own.

One of the farmers said in his new statement, “Na ako, sa tulong ng aking kooperatiba ay naging benepisyaryo ng Sentrong Pamilihan sa programang pangkabuhayan ng dating kongresista at ngayo’y kalihim ng Kagawaran ng Agrikultura Proceso J. Alcala.”

In a phone interview, Talaga said that Alcala should directly answer the farmers’ allegations and not employ “diversionary tactics.”

The Manila Times got a copy of the disbursement vouchers submitted by Spade Foundation to DSWD that specified the farmers who received cash loan assistance of P50,000 each.

The voucher contained only the names of alleged farmer-beneficiaries and was countersigned by Claron Alcantara, Alcala’s former chief of staff and now president of Spade Foundation.

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