THE practice of some senators to release portions of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to questionable non-governmental organizations (NGOs) did not only happen under former President Gloria Arroyo but continued even during the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, according to the government’s chief auditor.
Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Thursday that from 2011 to 2012, some senators gave their “pork” to spurious NGOs. She did not name the lawmakers.
Tan said they made the discovery during a separate audit on the congressional pork barrel.
The audit is different from one the agency conducted where several senators and congressmen were found to have given billions of funds to fake NGOs. That audit report covered fiscal years 2007 to 2009.
Tan named Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr., Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Gregorio Honasan as among the senators who allocated their PDAF to seven sham NGOs linked to Janet Lim Napoles, the woman who is said to have masterminded the pork barrel scandal.
Tan said two other senators approved allocations to Philippine Forest Corp. (Philforest Corp.) a government owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
She said the audit report “should have been released one or two weeks ago but we held off until after we have verified all the information.”
Senate President Franklin Drilon insisted that Tan identify the senators implicated in the audit report to spare the rest of the members of chamber from suspicion.
She declined but assured Drilon the COA will release its report next week.
State auditors who attended a Senate inquiry into the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) controversy further implicated some senators who, according to them, signed letters endorsing the release of the PDAF to questionable NGOs.
Tan told the Blue Ribbon committee, led by Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, she has copies of the endorsement letters not only from senators but members of the House of Representatives as well.
Tan refused to present the letters to the committee, saying COA had submitted them to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Ombudsman which were conducting a joint probe of the controversy.
The letters, she added, were used by the implementing agencies to release funds to the NGO endorsed by the lawmakers, without calling for a bidding.
She said the lawmakers would send the letters to the implementing agency directing it to release their PDAF to the NGO they chose for the project.
Tan said the legislators usually specified the NGOs they want to implement their projects.
At the same hearing, COA identified seven of the eight Napoles-linked NGOs found to have received more than P1.7 billion in PDAF allocations from senators and congressmen.
The NGOs are the Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (AEPFFI), Agriculture Para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc. (APMFI), Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development (CARED), Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc (MAMFI), People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc (POPDFI), Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI) and Social Development Program for Farmers Foundations, Inc (SDPFFI).
Based on COA data, the seven NGOs either had questionable addresses, had the same tax identification number (TIN), had expired Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration or failed to confirm their transactions.
MAMFI got the biggest PDAF slice from Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada—P477 million—coursed through the National Agribusiness Corp (NABCOR), Technology Resource Center (TRC) and the National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC).
SDPFFI got a total of P322.4 million from the PDAF of the three senators with the Zamboanga del Norte Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC), NABCOR, TRC and NLDC as the implementing agencies.
The AEPFFI got P145 million from the three and another senator, Gregorio Honasan, with NLDC and TRC as the implementing agencies. APMFI received P104 from the PDAF of Enrile and Revilla coursed through NLDC and TRC.
Enrile allotted P96 million and P24 million, respectively, to CARED (NLDC and TRC) and POPDFI (NABCOR and TRC) while Revilla gave P31.5 million to PSDFI (TRC).
The NGOs are among the 82 listed in the COA special audit that had questionable records.
Guingona said the hearing on the PDAF scam will focus on the NGOs linked to Napoles.
The four senators mentioned in the COA presentation stayed away from the hearing to avoid being accused of trying to influence the resource persons.
Enrile and Revilla Jr. denied endorsing their PDAF to any NGO.
But Tan said COA has come across documents signed by Enrile and Revilla or their representatives involving PDAF allocations to NGOs which suggest that they were aware of the transactions.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said it would be better for the four lawmakers to attend the proceedings so they can answer questions, explain their side and clear their names.
But Guingona said he will respect the decision of the four, although he might invite them in the future.
Guingona said the proceedings clearly showed how PDAF fund flows from the legislators to the selected NGOs. He, however, maintained that there has been no indication yet that the PDAF went into the pockets of the lawmakers.
Meanwhile, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo urged the investigating team to be transparent in their probe.
Pabillo suggested the media should be allowed to follow the developments of the investigation.
When Napoles surrendered to Aquino, the Presidential Security Group ordered the police to bar reporters and photographers from getting near Napoles and her husband, Jimmy.
At the House, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala admitted department personnel were liable for the release of the P44 million worth of PDAF to a Napoles NGO.
Alcala, a former Quezon province representative, made the admission after he went before the House Appropriations committee to seek approval of his department’s proposed P79-billion budget.
“We [in the DA]accept the responsibility. But there is always a different responsibility for every official. If your fingernail is hurting, your whole body will hurt. I don’t deny the responsibility over this,” Alcala told reporters after the budget hearing.
Each lawmaker is entitled to an annual PDAF of P70 million.
According to Alcala, Napoles’ Kaupdanan para sa Manguguma Foundation received P44 million from the P83 million that should have been released to her because of the stringent measures implemented by the Agriculture department in releasing PDAF funding which exceeds P300,000.
Alcala stopped short of implicating his personnel to the scam.
“I bank on the words of my people because if I don’t trust them, I can’t stay on my post. I can’t do this job alone,” he said.