THE Senate yellow ribbon committee headed by Sen. TG Guingona has kept its hands off the Malampaya Fund despite a resolution filed more than two years ago by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada seeking an inquiry into how it has been used.
This inaction by Guingona has raised suspicions that the inquiry into the Malampaya Fund might run smack into some members of the Aquino administration. In fairness, the previous administration had also been suspected of dipping its hands into the Fund, with fingers pointing at former Budget Secretary, now Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr.
In October 2013, the National Bureau of Investigation filed a plunder case before the Ombudsman against former President Gloria Arroyo, Andaya, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Janet Lim Napoles, Ruby Tuason and 19 others for the alleged misuse of P900 million from the Malampaya Fund.
Incidentally, the Fund is sourced from the state’s share of revenues from the Camago-Malampaya Natural Gas Project off Palawan.
The amount involved is even bigger than that associated with the “pork” scam allegedly perpetrated by Janet Lim Napoles. However, like the “pork” scam, the Malampaya Fund racket also involved fictitious beneficiaries of fake non-government organizations, according to the NBI and an audit report by the Commission on Audit.
Ombudsman Conchita Morales had been criticized for allegedly focusing on opposition leaders. She cut the bite off those criticisms of “selective justice” by denying recently the motions for reconsideration of former Customs Commissioner/former Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon and former Reps. Rodolfo Valencia of Oriental Mindoro, Marc Douglas Cagas of Davao del Sur, Arrel Olano of Davao del Norte and Arthur Pinggoy of South Cotabato over the alleged pork barrel scam. With this, Morales affirmed the indictment of these administration allies for malversation, graft and direct bribery.
After successfully rebutting the criticisms of “selective justice”, Ombudsman Morales can now hopefully go hammer and thongs against those charged by the NBI with plunder of the Malampaya Fund, especially Andaya who worked for the inclusion of DAR and other agencies among the beneficiaries of the Fund. Nobody will fault her should she now focus on the charges against former leaders of the previous administration.
The NBI report said that on Oct. 8, 2009, Andaya issued a memorandum to President Arroyo requesting for authority to use the Malampaya Fund for relief and rehabilitation purposes of victims of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng from among agrarian reform beneficiaries. Five days later, Arroyo issued Executive Order 848 liberalizing disbursements from the Malampaya Fund account of the Department of Energy. This allowed the inclusion of new recipients outside the concerned communities such as the DAR-accredited agrarian reform beneficiaries.
Andaya has been quoted as saying that DAR Secretary Pangandaman had actually requested for more than P1 billion but a Cabinet meeting agreed to release only P900 million to DAR as other agencies were also asking for funds from the Malampaya. According to the NBI, Andaya was the principal in the release of funds and didn’t even need any authorization from Arroyo.
Among the pieces of evidence submitted by the NBI was the testimony of whistleblower Benhur Luy and others that the entire P900 million went to 12 bogus NGOs of Napoles.
In recommending the filing of plunder charge, then NBI acting director Medardo de Lemos told the Ombudsman: “The DBM was practically given blanket approval to fund any and all relief and rehabilitation projects at the mere request of any implementing agency without the need of any further approval from the President, even when no clear work plan is submitted by the implementing agency showing that the funds will actually be used for the purpose authorized by the President.”
The NBI also claimed there was connivance among the DBM, DAR and Napoles to misappropriate or misuse the P900 million allotted to DAR.
“This can be gleaned from the improper, if not illegal, transfer of the P900 million by the DBM to DAR Fund 158 and the hasty release of the checks by DAR to Napoles NGOs for projects that were intended to help the victims of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng,” the NBI said.
Andaya is now seeking his third consecutive term as representative of the first district of Camarines Sur. This district was represented in 2007-2010 by Diosdado “Dato” Macapagal Arroyo. In 2010, a new congressional district was created in the province, thus preventing the come-backing Andaya from running against Arroyo. Arroyo became congressman of the second district in 2010 and was reelected in 2013.