Philippine economy

COA witness: Napoles NGOs broke all rules

Buena Bernal
COA witness: Napoles NGOs broke all rules
COA Assistant Commissioner Susan Garcia testifies on the special audit conducted by the agency for years 2007 to 2009

MANILA, Philippines – For Commission on Audit (COA) Assistant Commissioner Susan Garcia, the rules are clear on when non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can be rightful recipients of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). 

These rules – among them a proper bidding process and an earmarked amount in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) – were violated in the transactions of state firms with NGOs controlled by alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, according to Garcia.  

Garcia was called to the witness stand during Napoles’ bail hearing Friday, August 8, before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan 3rd division. She testified on COA’s special audit report on the use of lawmakers’ PDAF from 2007 to 2009.

Napoles, 3 Philippine senators, and others are charged with plunder and graft for allegedly defrauding the government by using dummy NGOs to contract with state firms for ghost projects. Government lawyers said these fictitious projects were funded through these firms from lawmakers’ pork barrel, or PDAF.

Enrile’s projects

Garcia testified on the agricultural packages funded by detained Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s PDAF, a lump sum meant for his community development pet projects. Each small-scale package, coursed through government agencies, was priced at over P30,000 ($678) and was supposed to benefit farmers of rural towns in the province.

Garcia said that the agreements of Napoles’ NGOs with government implementing agencies – among them the National Agri-Business Corporation (Nabcor) and the National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) – flouted budget circulars, COA and government procurement rules, and relevant provisions of the GAA.

The agricultural projects should have been implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and not state firms NLDC and Nabcor, she said. Nabcor, for one, is involved in “marketing and promotion,” not in the procurement of agricultural packages, Garcia added. The NLDC, on the other hand, is into “micro-financing,” she said. 

Garcia also noted that the Napoles-controlled NGOs were not part of the list of authorized NGOs to transact with government under the GAA of the years 2007 to 2009.

A day earlier, state witness Benhur Luy testified that Napoles’ Bulacan property housed rotting crop seeds and damaged fertilizer supplies as mere front for when state inspectors visited to validate the physical existence of the livelihood kits. 

The transactions of Napoles-controlled NGOs with state corporations were all endorsed by lawmakers themselves, 3 of whom are the principal accused in the PDAF scam cases. 

Senators Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr are all charged with plunder and graft for allegedly financially gaining and knowingly allowing the Napoles NGOs to siphon off their PDAF. –

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