Malampaya fund: DAR ‘asec’ helped Napoles

Natashya Gutierrez
The agrarian reform assistant secretary facilitated MOAs between the agency and local governments. Mayors' signatures were faked so Napoles could get the funds

CASES IN BATCHES. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima tells Senator Teofisto Guingona III's committee the details of cases to be filed against government officials and private individuals in the public fund scam. Rappler photo

MANILA, Philippines – Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the scam that targetted lawmakers’ funds, hit the jackpot when she was given access to one of the President’s discretionary funds.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima revealed this to senators on Thursday, September 12, when she was asked about the charges that will be filed by government against Napoles and government officials who had connived with her.

De Lima said Napoles got P900 million of the multi-billion-peso Malampaya Fund through the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 2009 with the help of an “asec” or assistant secretary.

The Malampaya Fund comes from proceeds of the Malampaya natural gas project that has been operating off the shores of Palawan since 2001. It has since paid the government more than $4 billion in revenues.

However, until the Supreme Court resolves the sharing scheme between the national government and the host local government, the President has full control over the way the Malampaya Fund can be spent. DAR has been one of its biggest recipients.

Rappler reported in August on how Napoles accessed P900 million of Malampaya funds.

READ: Pork for the President

“When we file the cases, you will see as part of the evidence, most of the MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) there was signed by that [one] ASec,” she said, referring to the second batch of charges the NBI plans to file.

De Lima didn’t identify the assistant secretary. As of March 2009, the DAR asecs were Edgar A. Igano, Kashmir B. Leyretana, Dominador B. Andres, Ambrosio de Luna, and Jim Coleto.

Those involved in the misuse of that P900-million Malampaya Fund accessed by Napoles pocketed would be charged in the second batch of cases that the Department of Justice will file.

The first batch of charges, expected to be filed at the latest on Monday, September 16, will be against those involved in the PDAF scam.

The DAR-Malampaya Fund scam involved the agency facilitating supposed MOAs between the department and certain local government units (LGUs), specifying Napoles’ NGOs as project implementers.

Each LGU, through the mayor, was supposed to have requested DAR to release P10 million. The funds were meant for the rehabilitation of farmers in areas ravaged by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

It turned out, the signatures of the mayors were forged, De Lima said.

Benhuy Luy, the primary whistleblower and Napoles’ former personal assistant, told the same Senate hearing that he was among those who forged the mayors’ signatures.

The funds released by DAR to “LGUs” actually went to Napoles’ accounts, he said.

“Unlike the PDAF that there are certain lawmakers involved, this has no lawmakers involved but should be LGUs. But based on the findings of the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), this is where the signatures of mayors were forged,” De Lima said.

Connections

Luy testified that Napoles had mentioned knowing other DAR officials.

“When she got funds from DAR, from Malampaya, when she returned to the office she would say, ‘Hey, I got funds, P900 million.’ She mentioned a secretary,” Luy said in Filipino.

Luy said Napoles talked about being in touch with a secretary, a “usec” (undersecretary), and “asec” (assistant secretary), but he never saw them with Napoles.

At the time, the DAR secretary was former congressman Nasser Pangandaman.

The undersecretaries were Narciso B. Nieto, Gerundio C. Madueño, Rosalina l. Bistoyong, Augusto P. Quijano, and Renato F. Herrera.

Luy also said Napoles operated 20 NGOs – 8 to handle PDAF transactions, and “the others” to handle Malampaya funds.

He said their office filed documents and records of financial transactions according to the fund involved: “We had separate filing cabinets – for example, one for PDAF, one for Malampaya, and one for executive branch savings.”

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr earlier said groups that forged his signature accessed what turned out to be executive branch savings credited to his name but which he and his office were never informed of.

READ: Marcos: Fund misuse may be beyond PDAF – Rappler.com

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