A MILITANT peasant group said on Tuesday that past heads of the Department of Agriculture, particularly Luis Lorenzo, should be made accountable for some P134.4 million in unliquidated cash advances for the past 15 years.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the Commission on Audit has raised the problem long ago and that it’s a wonder how nothing is being done about it.
“These anomalies were presented by the Commission on Audit long ago and it suggested means on how it can be resolved, but what happened?” asked Danilo Ramos, secretary-general of the KMP.
Because the practice of the past agriculture secretaries were tolerated, he said, there are now questions whether the funds were spent properly.
Ramos said the amount could have been used to buy palay (unmilled rice) from the farmers.
“Traders continue to dictate prices of palay. They buy palay at P6 to P7 a kilo, farmgate price should have been higher because [the government] buys palay at P10.50 a kilo,” he said.
Rice subsidy, however, is insufficient, forcing the farmers to sell their produce to traders.
Besides unliquidated cash advances, the KMP said the Commission on Audit report disclosed a number of other questionable transactions and figures, particularly under the term of Luis Lorenzo Jr., who now serves as chair of the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Quedan and Rural Guarantee Credit Corp.
This includes the purchase of office supplies by the agriculture department’s Office of the Secretary amounting to P87,901,434.65. The department was only able to account for P1,379,147.55.
Lorenzo belittled the accusations, however, saying the KMP “intentionally and deliberately misread the COA audit report to satisfy its malicious intentions.”
“[The COA report] did not and cannot say that any money is missing or misused. It only stated that some numbers don’t tally as of the moment. There is really nothing extraordinary about it for they are normal and usual observations in government audit reports,” he said.