Pimentel calls for probe beyond PDAF
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Aquilino Pimentel III wants the Senate to probe anomalies involving other discretionary funds of agencies after a document surfaced that these allocations are being siphoned off by the syndicate of Janet Lim Napoles they way it has done with lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
On Thursday, September 26 – the fifth hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee on the pork barrel scam – Pimentel showed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the local government unit (LGU) of Surigao del Sur on the release of P10 million of the organic agriculture fund.
The document bore the signature of Napoles' nephew, John Lim, son of her brother Ronald Francis Lim.
According to the MOA, dated November 2012, the request for the fund supposedly came from Pimentel's office. He said he never issued a letter of request.
Pimentel will file a resolution with the Senate to look into how Napoles' group also tapped other funds, based on "the mere fact that a personality connected with Napoles has a signature as a witness."
Napoles is the alleged mastermind of a multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam that involves conniving with lawmakers to endorse with implementing agencies the release of their PDAF to Napoles' fake non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In exchange, lawmakers are said to have received hefty kickbacks.
Pimentel also slammed the DA, suggesting "maybe it's time to overhaul" the agency because of the anomalies associated with it.
The DA has also been tagged as one of the main agencies Napoles colluded with to release lawmakers' PDAF.
Pimentel said the "DA not informing" him of the supposed agreement "meant something is terribly wrong with the DA."
"One thing is clear: If the DA enters into a MOA, mentions a legislator, and doesn't even inform the legislator of the existence of the MOA, then something is really fishy. Why the secrecy?" he said.
Whistleblower Benhur Luy also offered additional information on the MOA in question, saying Napoles has contacts with the DA.
In the 2007 Senate investigation into the fertilizer fund scam, also involving the agriculture department, Napoles was already implicated.
He said the MOA was prepared in the office of Agriculture Undersecretary Antonio Fleta.
"I remember that letter," said Luy. "The request was amounting to P30 million but only P10 million was released. I remember that letter request was year 2011. They asked for funds, the lawmaker wrote the DA, asking for funds," he said.
"That's why the name of the senator (Pimentel) was included. From there, the organic fund was really charged with a SARO number and Mrs Napoles was talking to… I think it was a governor's office. From the DA, the fund went straight to the provincial capitol."
From the provincial government, the fund was released to Napoles' Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation. – Rappler.com