VOLUMES of confidential files stacked in boxes and steel cabinets were almost spirited away from the offices of the National Livelihood Development Council (NLDC), one of the government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCC) involved in the pork barrel scam that was recently ordered abolished by President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
In an interview with The Manila Times, NLDC Employees’ Association (NLDCEA) president Dante Zamora claimed that the attempt to steal the documents was thwarted by alert employees who reported the matter to the Department of Justice. The group believes that the documents can be used as evidence against lawmakers and NLDC officials who have been charged in connection with the alleged misuse of public funds.
“They put them in boxes and steel cabinets. We were told the documents are being taken for custody and for easy access by those involved in the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scam,” Zamora said.
He compared the incident to the Watergate scandal in the US in 1972, a case of break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. that eventually led to the resignation of then US President Richard Nixon.
“We are puzzled and we fear that there is something really going on here. Why do they have to take all these files away from our office when we still have a pending appeal to resuscitate NLDC?” he pointed out.
Asked who could have ordered the “custody” of the documents, Zamora replied: “NLDC president Condelina Amata and other NLDC top brass.”
Besides Amata, among those charged in connection with the PDAF scam were Alexis Sevidal, Sofia Cruz and Chila Jalandoni.
They were among the initial batch of 38 lawmakers, government officials, and private individuals who were charged for various offenses by the Office of the Ombudsman. The respondents include former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
According to Zamora, the abolition of the NLDC could have something to do with efforts to “sanitize” incriminating documents, noting that besides its involvement in the PDAF scam, the NLDC has been a productive government agency that does not need to be abolished.
“This is a big issue. The abolition of NLDC has an underlining and main reason that is covert. And it has everything to do with the PDAF case,” the union president stressed.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court (SC), in its en banc session, directed Malacañang to respond to a petition that seeks to declare unconstitutional the abolition of the NLDC.
The workers group filed the petition on September 21, accusing Malacañang of acting with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction in abolishing NLDC.
Under Executive Order (EO) No. 681, the NLDC’s mandate is “to undertake the promotion, generation and development of livelihood and community-based enterprises primarily in agri-business, including those in the Agrarian Reform Communities that will cater to the low-income bracket.”
Zamora’s group feared that the “sudden abolition” of the NLDC may have had something to do with over P2 billion worth of PDAF channeled through NLDC from 2010 to 2012.
Petitioners said the abolition of NLDC would result in the violation of their constitutional right to substantive and procedural due process and equal protection under the 1987 Constitution.
Zamora said the agency is in a sound fiscal position and has not been a liability to the national government. In fact, he said NLDC remitted more than P100 million to the treasury and it has not asked subsidies from the government.
The NLDC provides “wholesale lending and technical assistance to microfinance institutions (MFIs) that extend microfinance services to qualified households.”