SENATE Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano has filed a resolution seeking a Blue Ribbon committee investigation on allegations that officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) embezzled a portion of the government’s 2009 shares from the Malampaya funds.
Cayetano said he decided to seek a probe on DAR following reports that P900 million from the Malampaya gas project was funneled by the agency to dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs) allegedly controlled by Janet Napoles.
The funds were supposed to be used to help farmers in 97 towns damaged by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009, but were siphoned off to said fake NGOs.
The Malampaya proceeds were allegedly released by DAR through fictitious NGOs that were tapped by local governments to distribute “Farm Initiative Production Kits” to farmer and agrarian reform beneficiaries in their respective localities valued at around P40,000 each.
Among those that received funds from Malampaya proceeds are the Abundant Harvest for People’s Foundation Inc.; Bukirin Tanglaw Foundation Inc.; Dalangpan San Among Utod Kag Kasimanwa Foundation; Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.; Gintong Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc.; Karangyaan Para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc.; Kasaganahan Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.; Kaupdapan Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.; Masaganang Buhay Foundation Inc.; Micro Agribusiness Citizens Initiative Foundation Inc.; Saganang Buhay Sa Atin Foundation Inc.; and Tanglaw para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.
Cayetano noted that most of the NGOs mentioned were linked to Napoles, who is being accused of conniving with several lawmakers to get “kickbacks” from their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations.
Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr., and Juan Ponce Enrile where among those included in the plunder complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation before the Office of the Ombudsman.
“This scandalous allegation cannot go uninvestigated and the credible allegations compel us to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation,” Cayetano stressed.
The blue ribbon committee has temporarily suspended its hearing on the pork barrel scam while the chamber resolves the issue on whether it would allow Napoles to attend the hearings or not.
Guingona, as chair of the committee, has asked Senate President Franklin Drilon to sign the subpoena to Napoles but instead of signing it, the Senate chief sought the advice of the Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who advised against summoning Napoles.
The Senate is expected to decide on the matter today in an all senators’ caucus which was originally scheduled on Monday.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Drilon released data of his PDAF availments from 2010 to 2013 to show how he allocated the funds.
Drilon, who was also criticized for receiving additional P100 million under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), said that based on the data of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), he only got a total of P293-million worth of projects from 2010 to 2013, way below the P600 million he was supposed to avail.
Senators are entitled to a minimum of P200 million PDAF a year.
The biggest amount of the PDAF allocated to Drilon, P153.35 million, was spent for various infrastructure programs including P120.85 million which was directly implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and P32.5 million for the school building program nationwide which was coursed through the Filipino Federation of Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI).
“Contrary to claims of my detractors, the budget I requested under the PDAF for the construction of priority infrastructure was managed by the DPWH. I had no hand in the actual project implementation and in choosing the contractors. That is a job of the DPWH,” Drilon claimed.
The Senate President is facing various complaints before the Ombudsman filed by former Rep. Augusto Syjuco of Iloilo in connection with various questionable infrastructure projects in the province.
The latest complaint involves the alleged overpriced Esplanade I project in Iloilo City amounting to P123.5 million.
Syjuco claimed that the senator was able to amass at least P35 million from the project.
The former congressman also filed a slew of charges against Drilon over the construction of the Iloilo Justice Hall in 1992, the purchase of a 16.2-hectare property in Iloilo in 2006 and the release of P800-million pork barrel to Rep. Henedina Abad of Batanes.
Drilon dismissed the allegations which, according to him, were just part of the complainant’s effort to discredit him.
“What is more important here is that the record shows that no single centavo of the PDAF allotted to me as a senator went to bogus non-government organizations,” Drilon said.
At the Lower House, veteran lawmakers appealed to the public not to “burn the house down just to find the rats.”
“In reference to the Napoles issue, there are only at least five out of the 294 incumbent House members who were mentioned. [Would you call that] House of Thieves?” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City, the vice chairman of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), said.
Belmonte bewailed the various names the chamber is now called like House of Greed or House of Pigs, while its members were tagged as crocodiles, tongressman, tong being a slang Filipino term for a kickback from a government project.
All of these things have started to take its toll on lawmakers, according to the House leader.
The PDAF expose has already led to the filing of plunder and graft-related charges against 38 individuals, including three senators, before the Ombudsman, the realignment of the P25-billion PDAF provided under the P2.268-trillion proposed budget for 2014 to the budget for different budget agencies and somehow depriving the lawmakers of their discretion on who gets to benefit from the PDAF.
“Those criticisms would be the fallacy of false generalization.
The critics are closing their eyes to the good side of PDAF: our scholars who were able to obtain a college degree, the sick who were able to prolong their lives and poor sector of our society whom we helped because of our PDAF, including the infrastructure projects,” Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, chairman of the House Committee on Games and Amusements, told The Manila Times.
“Most of our critics don’t belong to the marginalized sector of our society. Critics of the PDAF didn’t get to experience trying times wherein they cannot send their children to college, bring their sick relative to the hospital because of poverty. Because of their demands regarding the PDAF abolition, they would be depriving millions of Filipinos of the help which we are extending through our PDAF,” Barzaga, a member of the National Union Party allied with the administration, said.
“Instead of focusing on PDAF abolition, critics should propose safeguards to prevent the repetition of the pork barrel scam and be vigilant to see to it that legislators who misappropriated public funds should be held liable,” he added.
For his part, Rep. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, also rued the attacks against Congress and described them as grossly unfair.
“While I fully support prosecution of erring and corrupt members of Congress, majority of us are decent, progressive and dedicated. We shouldn’t be lumped together with those who did wrong,” Baguilat said.