MANILA, Philippines – With the stroke of a pen, two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) allegedly set up by Janet Lim Napoles got P95 million from the Malampaya Fund in just one day. It puts to shame the cash bonanza she reaped from the pork barrel of lawmakers.
Tanglaw sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc and Saganang Buhay Sa Atin Foundation Inc were issued a total of 11 checks by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on Dec 23, 2009, amounting to P52.5 million and P42.5 million respectively.
In all, 42 checks with a total amount of P377.5 million were signed two days before Christmas by then DAR acting finance chief Teresita Panlilio, records showed.
The money, which formed part of the P900 million Malampaya Fund allocation to the DAR, was intended to assist farmers facing their bleakest Christmas following the successive typhoons that hit the country in 2009.
In an anomalous set-up, the money went directly to the NGOs, following a Memorandum of Agreement signed by then DAR Undersecretary for Finance and Administration Narciso Nieto and the supposed local government units that were recipients of the funds.
The regional and provincial offices of DAR were kept out of the loop. The crime was almost perfectly executed, until inquiries were made two years later.
Under the radar
For more than 2 years, the alleged misuse of the P900-million Malampaya Fund channeled to DAR remained under the radar. But things slowly unfolded after the Commission on Audit conducted an inventory of the Malampaya Fund that has been disbursed since 2002.
Based on Rapplers’ interviews with sources, the major characters involved were allegedly clueless that the P900 million additional funding given to DAR came from proceeds of the Malampaya oil and gas field operations.
One of the personalities involved, who asked not to be named, said they only knew about the fund’s source after they received inquiries from the COA sometime in February 2012 about how projects were implemented.
“There was no indication in the Special Allotment Release Order or even in the Notice of Cash Allocation that the money came from Malampaya,” the official explained.
All the documents were given to COA, including receipts for liquidation and other documentary requirements, the source said. The COA was even impressed that DAR was able to quickly come up with the liquidation, compared with the other government agencies that also got allocations from the Malampaya Fund.
But the COA inventory, which was initially not a fraud audit in itself, has already stirred up a hornet’s nest.
At the time that the P900-million Malampaya Fund was given to DAR in 2009, the DAR Secretary then was Nasser Pangandaman. In 2010, following a change in the administration, he was replaced by current DAR chief Virgilio delos Reyes.
By March 2012, or a month after the COA made inquiries, delos Reyes’ office began receiving letters from several mayors and governors who said they did not receive any funding support from the DAR. Neither did they enter into any MOA that indicated this.
The letters poured in, prompting delos Reyes to direct DAR regional and provincial officers to validate the complaints. Reports from the field officers confirmed his worst fears.
DAR municipal officers sent reports to the central office that no DAR-related projects were initiated in their areas, and nor were they aware that such were carried out in the first place. Seeing a pattern in the reports from the field, delos Reyes ordered an internal audit in late 2012 to get to the bottom of the anomaly.
By this time, the COA was already conducting a separate fraud audit on the Malampaya Fund scam.
Like pork barrel scheme
Unsurprisingly, the DAR’s preliminary findings on the Malampaya Fund hewed closely to the pork barrel scheme allegedly pulled off by NGOs linked to Napoles.
Forged signatures, fictitious beneficiaries, fake addresses and non-deliveries of agricultural implements came up in the initial findings of the DAR’s preliminary report. Whistleblowers of the pork barrel scam earlier said Napoles also dipped her fingers into the Malampaya Fund.
The 12 NGOs tapped in the Malampaya Fund scam however were different from those NGOs involved in the pork barrel, or Priority Development Assistance Fund of lawmakers.
Principal whistleblower Benhur Luy earlier told a Senate hearing that on Napoles’ instructions, they set up more than 20 NGOs. Over a period of 3 years, based on the COA audit of the pork barrel, at least 10 of these NGOs identified with her cornered P2.1 billion.
In the Malampaya Fund, about 10 NGOs too, which have links to Napoles, were involved in siphoning off the money. One common link among the 10 NGOs was that the MOAs they entered into with DAR were notarized by one lawyer, Editha Talaboc. The MOAs of two remaining NGOs were notarized by one Atty Delfin Agcaoili.
The Malampaya Fund theft however stands out because of how swift and brazen it was carried out. In less than 3 months, the scheme was pulled almost flawlessly.
P55 million to P82 million in largesse
Based on the supposed MOA between DAR, NGOs, and local officials, farmers were supposed to be the final beneficiaries of funds. Depending on the NGO, the financial support was termed as either “marginal farmers’ disaster assistance package,” “agricultural disaster development program,” “calamity farming assistance package,” or “marginal farmers’ disaster assistance package,” among others.
To correspond with the 97 LGUs that supposedly applied for funding support, 97 MOAs were signed by Nieto from DAR, the presidents of NGOs, and the LGUs.
Each MOA provided for anywhere between P7.5 million and P10 million as financial assistance to the farmers. Checks were issued in 4 batches, the last tranche released on Dec 23, 2009.
Among the NGOs, Gintong Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc and Karangyaan Para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc got the largest amount at P82.5 million each; followed by Saganang Buhay sa Atin Foundation Inc, with P80 million; and Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc with P77.5 million.
Six NGOs each got P75 million: Abundant Harvest for People’s Foundation, Bukirin Tanglaw Foundation Inc, Kasaganaan Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc, Kaupdanan Para sa Manguguma Foundation Inc, Masaganang Buhay Foundation Inc, and Dalangan Sang Amon Utod Kasinmawa Foundation Inc.
Tanglaw sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc got P72.5 million, while Micro-Aagri Business Initiative Foundation Inc got P55 million.
Grinch who stole Christmas
Under the MOAs, the DAR was supposed to “monitor the participation of agrarian reform beneficiaries in the implementation of the projects,” with the assistance of the LGU.
The NGOs in turn, were required to submit all the necessary documents pertaining to the implementation of the projects. The NGOs also held themselves liable for any “administrative or penal sanctions under the law” for any misappropriation of the fund.
But as it turned out, such obligations were all for show.
While farmers while still trying to recover from natural disasters, the Grinch stole their Christmas. – Rappler.com
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