SECRETARY Proceso Alcala of the Department of Agriculture (DA) received a tongue lashing on Wednesday for his failure to take action on the supposed link of DA Undersecretary for Administration and Finance Antonio Fleta to several questionable memorandums of agreement (MOA) between the agency and various local governments and even bogus non-government organization (NGOs) linked to pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles.
Lawyer Genaro Jawid, legal counsel of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) was reacting to the privileged speech of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, who announced he would be filing charges against Fleta and those involved in a syndicate behind the forging of his signature on a MOA stating that Pimentel’s office has chosen Surigao del Sur as recipient of a P10-million allocation from the DA Organic Agriculture Fund (OAF).
Jawid said it has become increasingly apparent that Alcala has turned a blind eye on issues plaguing the department and appears to have exhibited lack of sincere intent to get to the bottom of the scams hatched in his agency.
“Under his watch, the initials ‘DA’ have come to mean ‘Department of Anomalies,’ and I have lost track of the number of scandals that have rocked the DA during his tenure,” the anti-corruption advocate added.
In his privileged speech, Pimentel said the letter that DA purportedly received from him was “an outright falsification, forgery” noting that his office does not have a copy of the letter and the letterhead used was not from his office.
Jawid said that Pimentel had every right to be suspicious that the DA “did not follow standard operating procedures and as head of the DA it is incumbent upon Alcala to “at the very least, preventively suspend Fleta so that the DA could conduct a fair and impartial investigation of the charges leveled by the senator.
Even before Pimentel’s privileged speech, accuser Benhur Luy in a recent Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Hearing on the pork barrel scam, revealed that similar MOAs were prepared in Fleta’s office based on letter-requests from lawmakers.
One of the beneficiaries cited in the MOAs was the Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc., a bogus non-government organization linked to Napoles.
“In government, it is SOP [standard operating procedure]to write the requesting party an acknowledgment letter or a letter updating the party of the status of the request, especially when there are funds involved. Fleta did neither. Baka ibang SOP gusto ni Fleta [Maybe Fleta likes a different kind of SOP],” the lawyer added.
The VACC recently urged the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to focus its investigation on the pork barrel fund scam’s effects in the agriculture sector.
Various department officials have also been accused of involvement in the channeling of Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) and DA funds to NGOs linked to Napoles.
Fleta, Assistant Secretary Ophelia Agawin, and Assistant Secretary Salvador Salcup are all suspected of having a hand in fund releases to Napoles NGOs.
Alcala had earlier replaced Agawin as chair of the committee in charge of the accreditation of NGOs, but, according to the DA, Agawin “will continue to perform her other tasks, functions and responsibilities as assistant secretary for finance.”