MANILA, Philippines – Until last month, a non-governmental organization that state auditors had recommended to be banned, was still getting lawmakers' pork barrel through the agriculture department.
Six other NGOs had one reason or another to be banned by the Department of Agriculture as implementers of projects or recipients of grants, but in fact continued to receive Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) through the agency.
In fact, it was the Department of Agriculture (DA), not any other authority, that accredited these dubious NGOs in the past, Secretary Proceso Alcala admitted on Tuesday, September 3.
Alcala gave assurances, however, the DA is now in the process of weeding out anomalous NGOs it had accredited.
A day after Alcala's press conference, the Senate minority – many of whose members have been alleged to endorse these NGOs – released a statement explaining how it is the implementing agencies, not the lawmakers, that choose the NGOs that get the PDAF.
Half a billion to one 'NGO'
One of the NGOs accredited by DA to receive PDAF was identified in the Commission on Audit special report as one of the dubious NGOs that misused pork barrel from 2007 to 2009. DA has suspended releasing any more funds to this group.
Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation, Inc (KKAMFI), which received P525.679 million from 2007 to 2009, gave 3 suspicious addresses, one of which is non-existent.
The COA document reports that 3 of its officers are linked to up to 6 other anomalous NGOs: Marilou Antonio (president), Myra Villanueva (Incorporator) and Godofredo Roque (incorporator).
Some of its suppliers denied making any transactions with KKAMFI, including BB Vergara Plant Nursery and PI Farm Products. Another supplier, JL Soriano Enterprises, only has a permit from 2000 to 2001.
Despite these anomalies, KKAMFI was still accredited by the agriculture department to receive P96.3 million in pork from 2012 to 2013.
Because of the directive of President Benigno Aquino III to stop the release of pork barrel funds until the end of the pork barrel scam probe, only P33.3 million of the pork allotment has been released. Thus, KKAMFI has so far been awarded P558.97 million since 2007.
The department will look into documents and records to find out what the NGOs did with the funds and if the NGOs are legitimate, said Alcala.
They have also contacted the lawmakers who fueled their allotted PDAF into the NGOs. When they have compiled enough documents to file charges against the NGOs, they will turn over all evidence to the Office of the Solicitor General for further investigation.
The department's internal investigation should be completed within September.
"Ito po 'yung singilin 'nyo sa amin within this month of September. Pipilitin po namin matapos kunin lahat ng mga detalye ng lahat ng mga NGOs na dumaan sa PDAF (This is what you can demand from us within this month of September. We will ensure to get all the details of the NGOs which were covered by PDAF)," promised Alcala at the press conference.
He also assured citizens that employees and officials of his department proven to be directly involved with the improper release of funds will receive the appropriate punishment.
KKAMFI is one of the 7 NGOs the department is probing in its internal audit. Under the Aquino administration, a total of P334.09 million was allotted to the 7 NGOs. Of these, P132.84 million has been released, according to documents provided by the DA.
One of these, Kaupdanan Para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc (KPMFI), is linked to Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the multi-billion pork barrel scam.
Here is the list of NGOs and the amount of PDAF allocated and released (data from Department of Agriculture):
Name of NGO Allotment Released Maharlikang Lipi Foundation, Inc 10,000,000 1,500,000 Kaakbay Buhay Foundation, Inc 15,000,000 2,250,000 Coprahan at Gulayan Foundation, Inc 5,000,000 5,000,000 Kaupdanan Para Sa Mangunguma Foundation, Inc 83,200,000 44,950,000 Gabay at Pag-asa ng Masa Foundation, Inc 62,460,000 28,262,000 Kasangga sa Magandang Bukas Foundation, Inc 62,125,000 17,587,450 Kabuhayan at Kalusugang Alay sa Masa Foundation, Inc 96,300,000 33,292,500 TOTAL 334,085,000 132,841,950
KPMFI, traced to Napoles, was allotted P83.2 million or 25% of the total amount of pork barrel funds destined for the 7 NGOs. Of this, P44.95 has been released for a project meant to provide recipient farmers with heavy knapsack sprayers (used to spray insecticides and fungicides) and foliar fertilizer (liquid fertilizer applied directly to leaves for better absorption of nutrients).
Six lawmakers awarded their PDAF to KPMFI:
According to the department's audit, the PDAF of 5 of the congressmen released to KPMFI were "fully liquidated" and that "randomly selected recipients farmers acknowledged receipt of the heavy knapsack sprayer and foliar fertilizer."
But Fuentebella, representative of the 4th District of Camarines Sur, said he did not know about the project and did not sign any endorsement in favor of KPMFI.
According to the agriculture department, Fuentebella's chief of staff Benjamin Geronimo submitted a sworn affidavit saying he did not endorse or sign documents in behalf of the congresssman in favor of the NGO.
Through a letter, the department has asked the solon what to do with the remaining PDAF amounting to P4.25 million. They are also coordinating with the Office of the Solicitor General on the filing of an appropriate case.
Here is the list of PDAF allocations and releases from the 7 congressmen (data from Department of Agriculture):
PDAF Allocation and Release for Kaupdanan Para Sa Mangunguma Foundation, Inc (KPMFI) PDAF Total Amount Awarded Released Amount Area Covered Date of Actual Validation Remarks Rep Neil Benedict Montejo 9,200,000 9,200,000 Matalon and Julita, Leyte August 12-13, 2013 Fund fully released and liquidated. Randomly selected recipient farmers acknowledged receipt of heavy knapsack sprayer and foliar fertilizer. Rep Antonio Lagdameo 1,000,000 1,000,000 2nd District of Davao Del Norte August 11-12, 2013 Fund fully released and liquidated. Randomly selected recipient farmers acknowledged receipt of heavy knapsack sprayer and foliar fertilizer. Rep Isidro Ungab 13,000,000 13,000,000 3rd District of Davao City August 14-15, 2013 Fund fully released and liquidated. Randomly selected recipient farmers acknowledged receipt of heavy knapsack sprayer and foliar fertilizer. Rep Scott Davies Lanete 45,000,000 19,500,000 3rd District of Masbate August 12-13, 2013 Released tranche fully liquidated. Randomly selected recipient farmers acknowledged receipt of heavy knapsack sprayer and foliar fertilizer. Rep Arnulfo Fuentebella 5,000,000 750,000 4th District of Camarines Sur August 10-11, 2013 Denied any knowledge about the project. Claimed he did not sign any endorsement in favor of KPMFI. Rep Reynaldo Umali 10,000,000 1,500,000 2nd District of Oriental Mindoro August 13-14, 2013 Released tranche fully liquidated. Randomly selected recipient farmers acknowledged receipt of heavy knapsack sprayer and foliar fertilizer. TOTAL 83,200,000 44,900,000
Alcala explained how PDAF is awarded to NGOs. Lawmakers choose NGOs to award their PDAF to. After consulting each other on the project ideally meant to benefit the lawmaker's constituents, the two parties come up with a project proposal to be submitted to the department.
The department screens the NGO and grants them accreditation. The funds are then released to the NGO tasked with implementing the project. The department sends staff to validate if the project was properly executed.
Alcala expressed his disappointment that a NGO linked to Napoles got through his department's screening. He pointed out that it would have gone through Assistant Secretary for Finance Ophelia Agawin and a screening committee.
"By that time, who of us knew about the Napoles modus operandi? For us, as long as you submit the prerequisites from the COA guidelines, you have the right to be accredited. And we also have documents saying KPMFI is in good standing."
How about legitimate projects?
Malacañang's freezing of pork barrel releases until the end of the probe puts the department on unstable ground, said Alcala.
"What we want to know is, is the order retroactive? Because the other congressmen have legitimate projects. There are still some funds due for release. We have live memoranda of agreement. What will be the legal standing of the department? Will the funds be released, will new NGOs be assigned or do these funds go to the national treasury?"
Aquino defended Alcala last August after the secretary was linked to the pork barrel scam, saying there is a "marked difference" between the current department and the department in the previous administration which was involved in the P729-million fertilizer scam.
"Let's not forget the primary function of Secretary Alcala is to ensure the progress of our agriculture, food security. This assistance to NGOs and the channeling of PDAF from congressmen is not their primary function," he said.
While he agreed that Alcala's involvement in the controversy is possible, he said "the record will speak for itself." – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.