Agri dep’t initiates probe into pork barrel scam

The Department of Agriculture has started a fact-finding investigation within the agency after reports linked the multi-million pork barrel scam to the agency

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has started a fact-finding investigation within the agency after reports linked the multi-million pork barrel scam to the department.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte revealed on Friday, August 2, that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has initiated a probe on the allegations “relative to the use of NGOs and the pork barrel of legislators” in connection to the department.

The investigation includes collection of documents that may relate to the scam, and studying employees who may have ties to the scheme.

“He says the results are expected next week,” Valte said.

Reports and exposés in the past years have mostly identified the DA and agencies or corporations under it as channels of misused pork barrel.

READ: Should Senate probe pork barrel scam?

She also disclosed that the department is now looking into “taking more stringent steps in processing” requests of legislators who ask the agency to allot their pork barrel to non-government organizations (NGOs), in order to avoid anomalies.

“The Department of Agriculture is, in fact, taking measures to put in place a tighter screening of [NGOs],” she said. “The DA, as is the case in most departments, is the implementing agency. The money is given to them, but it is really the legislator that identifies the request that is being processed.”

READ: Collusion? Solons pick NGOs that get PDAF

Alcala has denied accusations that he has anything to do with the scam run by a syndicate allegedly headed by Janet Lim-Napoles. A whistleblower linked Alcala to the scam, saying he facilitated funding for two dummy NGOs created by Napoles.

Napoles allegedly used pork barrel money for ghost projects in exchange for kickbacks for politicians and government officials.

PDAF to stay?

Despite the massive scam, the Palace said President Benigno Aquino III has no plans of abolishing the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) given to senators and congressmen.

Following the scam, some senators have asked for the phase out of the pork barrel to curb corruption.

But Valte said the President disagreed.

“When I had the occasion to speak to the President about it, what he said was, ‘The job of the national government is to look at macro concerns. The local concerns [are for the legislators],” she said. “And who is in the best position to know the essential [issues] but the ones in those communities?”

Valte said Aquino cited his experiences when he was a congressman, adding the projects he focused on were the ones ignored by national government.

“He said, the PDAF is really the share of the constituents in the budget,” she said. – Rappler.com
 

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