Aquino: Abolish pork scam gov't agencies

MANILA, Philippines – Say goodbye to state agencies linked to the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.

On the same day the Senate continued its hearing on the pork barrel scam, the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG), which is mandated to regulate the country’s government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs), announced President Benigno Aquino III has approved the abolition of 3 non-performing GOCCs.

The commission in September earlier wrote Aquino requesting for the abolition of the following agencies:

• National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor)
• Zamboanga del Norte College Rubber Estates Corporation (ZREC)
• Philippine Forest Corporation (PFC)

These 3 GOCCs are among those linked to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) controversy uncovered by the Commission on Audit (COA). In question are fund releases under the Arroyo administration from 2007 to 2009.

During the Senate hearing on Thursday, January 30, GCG chair Cesar Villanueva said that his agency had recommended the abolition of Nabcor and ZREC even before the pork barrel scam was exposed. (READ: COA to sue agencies for pocketing cash advances)

Villanueva said Nabcor had been consistently suffering financial losses, while ZREC sourced 30% of its commissions from PDAF projects.

In a September Senate hearing, former officials of Nabcor and ZREC also confirmed COA findings that Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and Jinggoy Estrada, and other congressmen channeled their pork barrel to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) linked to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles through the two agencies.

Some former officials of these agencies, along with Napoles, face plunder charges before the Ombudsman including Alan Javellana, the former president of Nabcor, and Salvador Salacup, former president of ZREC who is now assistant secretary at the Department of Agriculture. At least 5 other Nabcor employees also face charges.

The GCG recommended the scrapping of the said agencies after its regular sector-wide evaluation of GOCCs last year based on financial viability and relevance to current national development plans.

In a statement from the GCG, it said its regular evaluation of GOCCs "showed that the 3 GOCCs were no longer performing the purpose for which they were created, had negligible social impact and were not financially viable."

Next step

The President's approval means a Technical Working Group (TWG) will be created, which will handle the winding down of operations, disposition of assets, liabilities, closing of book accounts, and the transfer of assets and functions.

Employees of these agencies will be granted separation pay, unless they are found to have participated in graft or corrupt acts.

According to the statement, "the GCG is studying the abolition of more GOCCs as part of its broad mandate, which includes merging, reorganizing, streamlining, and privatizing GOCCs."

In September, it also recommended the faster review of the Technology Resource Center (TRC) and the National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC).

Former officials and employees of these two companies also face plunder charges in relation to the pork barrel scam. – Rappler.com