MANILA, Philippines – Agriculture Sec Proceso Alcala revealed on Wednesday, August 7, that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) associated with alleged pork barrel scam head Janet Lim-Napoles were able to get almost half of the funds intended for them under his department last year.
The Department of Agriculture (DA), however, was able to monitor the NGOs that had not delivered, so it withheld the rest of the funds.
“I want you to know that P83 million [in funds] for the Napoles group passed through the department, but P44 million of that had not been released because one of the safety nets we put up was to release by tranches,” Alcala told reporters on the sidelines of the Livestock Philippines 2013 Expo and Conference in Pasay City.
Alcala said releasing funds in tranches was one of the reforms instituted by the agency to prevent irregularities. He said groups that were unable to liquidate expenses no longer received the second tranche.
The agriculture chief also defended himself and his department, saying the release of funds to Napoles’ NGOs was not intentional. He explained that he had not worked with lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) until August 2012 – when the Napoles groups received funds.
“My conscience is clear,” he said.
The DA and the agencies and corporations attached to it have been the conduit of PDAF for so-called soft projects – livelihood trainings and services, as well as supplies.
Reports and exposés in the past years have mostly identified the DA and agencies or corporations under it as channels of misused pork barrel. The P728-million fertilizer fund scam and the anomalous swine program during the Arroyo administration all happened in the agriculture department.
A whistleblower who used to work for Napoles 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 endorsing her NGOs as PDAF recipients, senators and congressmen allegedly got kickbacks.
Alcala initiated a probe within his department in relation to the allegations. On Tuesday, August 6, President Benigno Aquino III defended Alcala and praised the “very marked difference” in the DA between the past administration and now, specifically in the minimized “opportunities for misuse of public funds.”
The agriculture chief said he had talked to Aquino about the money that reached Napoles, and submitted a report to his office on Tuesday morning.
He said the President appeared to still trust him with his position.
“I can see that he still is very pleasant in dealing with me and my conscience is clear. So don’t worry because nothing has changed when it comes to the President’s trust in me,” Alcala said. – Rappler.com