FORMER senator Edgardo Angara, who was recently named as one of the 12 senators who allegedly allotted portions of their pork barrel funds to questionable non-governmental organizations (NGOs), finally broke his silence and denied committing any wrongdoing in the use of his priority development assistance fund (PDAF).
Angara, based on the special audit report made by the Commission on Audit (COA), allotted P81 million of his pork barrel to READ Foundation, P25 million to the Assembly of Gracious Samaritans Foundation, P19 million to Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation Inc. and P14 million to Kalusugan ng Bata, Karunungan ng Bayan (K and K).
The report also disclosed that Angara served as one of the board of trustees of K and K which stopped operating in 2010.
Angara, in a statement, admitted being one of the 11 trustees of the K and K Foundation, which was incorporated in 2001, but he maintained that he received no compensation of any kind.
According to him, the P14.4-million allocation to the foundation was used for the school children feeding program. The money was coursed through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the implementing agency, which monitored its use.
“There was nothing whimsical or ad hoc about the establishment of the foundation,” Angara said, adding that K and K operated with full transparency and accountability and it was an accredited NGO by the DSWD during the time it served its constituents.
He said the foundation carried out feeding programs in 50 public elementary schools in seven provinces and five cities. More than 25,500 schoolchildren benefited from the program, which also reduced the drop-out rate in the target schools by 50 percent.
A Fund Utilization Report (FUR), which detailed and documented the use of the K and K funds, had been submitted to the DWSD and is now being validated by the department.
As for the READ Foundation, Angara said all but P4.7 million of the P81-million fund releases from 2001 to present had been liquidated. The liquidation reports, with attachments and documentations, are with the DWSD.
Among those that are yet to be liquidated include the P3 million for a scholarship program that would end in 2014; P1.7 million for ongoing projects for victims of calamities, financial assistance to indigents, and research and development work.
The former senator noted that the DSWD issued READ an official certification in December 2012, which stated that only P25 million remains not liquidated.
Angara said P10 million was released to Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC), a government-owned and -controlled corporation attached to the office of the President. He said the fund was released upon the request of the agency.
He said that they already requested the TLRC for a terminal report on the P10 million, including information about where it was used and what marginal sectors benefited from the money.
The agency is yet to submit its report.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano also denied misusing his PDAF and requested the CoA to conduct a special audit on the use of his pork from 2010 to the present.
He was referring to the P2 million he gave to five barangays which COA included in its special audit report.
Cayetano maintained that there was no anomaly since the COA report only indicated that there are documents lacking and it is up to the barangays that receive the allocation to provide the documents.
Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. of Iloilo, chairman of the House Committee on Justice, also denied funneling his PDAF to fake groups.
Tupas is an ally of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
“I am not sure about the excess. As far as I can remember, I only received P70 million a year. If ever there was an excess, as long as we are transparent on where it went and its implementation, as well as for a specific legitimate purpose, I don’t see anything wrong with it,” Tupas told The Manila Times.
He was referring to the P36-million extra ‘pork” that he received according to the COA report.
Each lawmaker is entitled to P70 million PDAF every year.
Tupas denied releasing his pork barrel to fake NGOs such as Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc., Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc., Kapuso’t Kapamilya Foundation Inc., Gabay at Pag-asa ng Masa Foundation Inc., Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation Inc., among others.
“I wrote COA in a series of letters in 2010 informing them that I did not authorize the transfer to NGOs and furnished them copies of my letters to DA, asking them to investigate and to stop transferring funds to NGOs. These are all on record,” he said.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are divided as to who should be blamed for the error that wrongfully attributed the release of P3-billion extra “pork” to former Rep. Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora of Compostela Valley.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Rodito Albano of Isabela said the COA could have been more judicious in its findings since its erroneous report damaged Zamora’s reputation. The former lawmaker was known for riding a bike to Congress.
“It [P3 billion] is so unbelievable that COA should have checked it 10 times before making it the highlight of their report. Also, Secretary [Butch] Abad should go after who is responsible for the error. Kanya-kanyang turuan ’yan [People will pinpoint anyone but themselves],” Belmonte said.
Secretary Florencio Abad of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has apologized for the error, saying the amount was released to the Department of Public Works and Highways.
The money was released when now Rep. Rolando Andaya of Camarines Sur was the DBM chief.
“Why did the COA release it to the media without verifying it first? Common sense would dictate that the figure is way above even that of the President’s discretionary funds,” Albano said.
But for House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption, the ax should fall on the DBM because it forwarded the documents to the COA.
“It is the DBM team which gave the information to COA who should be responsible. The amount of P3 billion given to a particular representative is already a red flag. That amount is improbable. Good faith dictates that prior to the release of the report attributing it to Way Kurat, they should have validated it,” Tugna said.
Abad pledged that such error won’t happen again.
“This was an honest mistake. When we took over in 2010, we introduced reforms that would prevent mistakes like this from happening such as presenting all PDAF allocation under one heading in the GAA, putting a cap on PDAF allocation by sticking with the P70 million a year for House members and P200 million for senators, uploading PDAF projects and releases in real time in the DBM website, computer-generation of SARO releases, among others,” he said.