Palace defends agri chief anew over DA irregularities

'We don't see any need to investigate Secretary Alcala... He is a hardworking Cabinet Secretary and we believe in his capabilities'

STILL TRUSTED. The Palace says President Aquino still trusts Agriculture Chief Proceso Alcala despite anomalies linked to the Department of Agriculture. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Monday, September 30, defended Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala anew following fresh allegations of irregularities associated with the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing that Alcala continues to enjoy the confidence of the President.

READ: Aquino defends agri chief Alcala over pork barrel links

The statement comes days after Sen Koko Pimentel presented evidence to the Senate about a dubious transaction made by the DA, wherein the agency released P10 million to a non-governmental organization as apparently requested by Pimentel. The senator said he never made the request but the DA released the money without informing or checking with him.

The irregularity caused Pimentel to suggest a needed “overhaul” in the DA and call for a probe on non-pork barrel anomalies.

But Lacierda maintained the Palace saw no need to question the agriculture chief.

“We don’t see any need to investigate Secretary Alcala,” he said. “He is a hardworking Cabinet Secretary and we believe in his capabilities.”

Lacierda also praised the reforms instituted by Alcala in the agency, saying Alcala only releases funds after it is thoroughly audited.

Pimentel’s exposé is the latest anomaly linked to the DA.

In August, President Benigno Aquino III himself came to the defense of Alcala after the DA was linked to the multi-billion pork barrel scam. Alcala himself revealed that NGOs of alleged scam syndicate Janet Lim Napoles were able to pocket P39 million of the DA’s pork barrel funds, but the revelation did not affect Aquino’s trust in the Secretary.

Back then, Aquino too hailed the “marked difference” in the DA between the past administration and now, specifically in the “opportunities for misuse of public funds.”

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. –

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