FORMER officials of the National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) confirmed reports that some senators poured part of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to sham non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Rhodora Mendoza, former Nabcor vice president for administration and finance, on
Thursday told the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that not only did Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. endorse the NGOs, they even signed the liquidation reports that cleared the release of succeeding funds.
Former Nabcor president Allan Javellana confirmed Mendoza’s statement.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee that is conducting an inquiry into the use of PDAF, said the release of funds to NGOs was done in tranches. For a group to get more fund releases, it must complete liquidation first.
“They [legislators]cannot say that they are not aware of the projects because they also signed the liquidation report,” Guingona said.
The three lawmakers were earlier identified by Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan of the Commission on Audit (COA) as among the lawmakers who transferred pork barrel funds to three NGOs linked to Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the PDAF scam.
The NGOs are the Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc (MAMFI), the People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation, Inc. (POPDFI) and the Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation, Inc. (SDPFFI).
Mendoza, one of the resource persons invited by the committee, said she did not notice any irregularities in the transactions made by the NGOs when she was still with Nabcor. In fact, she said, the organizations complied with all the liquidation requirements.
“They (NGOs) always submit external audit reports signed by a certified public accountant (CPA) as part of their liquidation and it was certified correct by the legislators themselves,” she said.
She also noted that the liquidation reports also attached the list of project beneficiaries signed by the legislators or their designated representatives.
A liquidation report is required by the implementing agencies as proof that the projects have been implemented.
Mendoza said Enrile endorsed his PDAF for all three NGOs; Estrada transferred his funds to SDPFII and MAMFI while Revilla chose only MAMFI.
All three lawmakers have denied involvement in the scam, saying they did not know the NGOs they endorsed were involved in questionable transactions.
Javellana said he met Napoles twice but only to discuss projects of Nabcor.
Mendoza also said she knew Napoles and Benhur Luy, having met them in a Thanksgiving Mass she attended.
Javellana claimed that he had no idea that the NGOs were fake.
“Napoles was introduced to us as a businesswoman who wanted to invest in Nabcor projects. We were looking for investors at that time and it’s not only Napoles that I’ve met,” he told the senators.
He conceded that Nabcor could have been more thorough in checking the NGOs and that the corporation should not have only relied on documents.
“These NGOs are endorsed to us by lawmakers,” Javellana said.
Former and present officials of Nabcor and Zamboanga del Norte College Rubber
Estates Corp. (ZREC) who at the hearing corroborated the COA findings regarding the legislators endorsing NGOs to use their PDAF.
Assistant Secretary Salvador Salacup, former head of ZREC, also said Revilla, Estrada and Enrile coursed their PDAF to ZREC.
Salacup said Revilla signed the endorsement letters to several NGOs. The endorsement letters of Estrada and Enrile were signed by their representatives.
Guingona noted the “suspicious demeanor” of Javellana who he said was “trying to hide something.”
Javellana also admitted talking to Luy, who was at that time president of the Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation, Inc. (SDPFFI), a group also controlled by Napoles.
Guingona said the former Nabcor head was selective in giving information, prompting the panel to ask Nabcor to submit documents detailing past transactions.
While Javellana can remember what he ate during his meeting with Napoles at the Discovery Suites, he could not remember the names of legislators who submitted endorsement letters.
“I don’t have the data because I retired from Nabcor in Oct. 2011 and I don’t have any data as of now,” Javellana said when asked about the list of congressmen who endorsed NGOs.
But Mendoza had a better reckoning of the past and identified several congressmen who supposedly gave shared their pork barrel with Napoles’ NGOs. They are Representatives Mark Douglas Cagas 4th, Erwin Chiongbian, Samuel Dangwa, Victor Ortega, Rodolfo Plaza, Edgar Valdez, Rizalina Lanete, Arthur Pingoy Jr. and Rodolfo Valencia.
Sen. Francis Escudero asked Budget Undersecretary for operations Mario
Relampagos if it was proper to download funds to ZREC and Nabcor even if these agencies were not listed as among the implementing agencies in the PDAF project menu for 2007-2009.
According to Escudero, it was the Department of Agriculture (DA) and not the GOCCs that are listed as the implementing agency.
Relampagos said he does not see any legal impediments for government corporations to engage in government projects.
Meanwhile, a militant labor group urged legislators linked to the PDAF controversy to resign because they no longer enjoy public trust.
Members of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino-National Capital Region and Rizal (BMP-NCRR) marched to the Senate on Thursday to demand the irrevocable and immediate resignation of all the senators and congressmen involved in the pork barrel scam.
“We found them (PDAF scam legislators) unworthy of another day in office,” said Gie Relova, Secretary General of BMP-NCRR.
Relova said the decision of the lawmakers to inhibit themselves from the Senate probe was not enough.
The group also reiterated its demands to abolish the pork barrel for all branches of government and the rechanneling of the funds to socialized housing, LRT and MRT subsidies and to replenish Social Security System funds.
13th Congress too
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito asked the COA to do a special audit that would cover the 13th Congress.
Ejercito said transactions from 2004 to 2007 should also be scrutinized because during those years, the legitimacy of former President Gloria Arroyo was challenged, and several questionable releases were allowed under the former administration.
He also asked COA to zero in on other corporations and NGOs that employ the same modus operandi like JLN corporation, Napoles’ company.
Also on Thursday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said her office will definitely file charges against Napoles even without her testimony.
De Lima said there is enough evidence to pin down Napoles.
She, however, admitted that with the resignation of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Nonnatus Rojas, the DOJ was having a “hard time” completing the investigation.
“This is a very trying time for the DOJ and the NBI,” De Lima said.
On Thursday, a Court of Appeals Justice said it was de Lima who leaked to the media the warrant of arrest issued by the Makati Regional Trial Court and the resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA) freezing the bank account of Napoles.
The magistrate, who did not want to be identified, told The Manila Times they were surprised when the resolution granting the plea of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to freeze the assets of Napoles, which is supposed to be confidential, came out in the media.
The resolution of the Court of Appeals’ 2nd Division was issued and promulgated on August 16. That afternoon, De Lima provided reporters a copy of the resolution.
“The purpose of the freeze order is to ensure that there will be no bank withdrawals that is why it is confidential. Madam De Lima really craves media exposure,” the magistrate said.
De Lima, he said, can be cited for contempt for the leak.