Rival NGOs beat Napoles in House ‘pork barrel’

Aries Rufo, Angela Casauay

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Napoles may be the poster queen of pork barrel, but she does not have a monopoly of the PDAF of House members

MANILA, Philippines – In 2004, or two years after he was hired by his cousin, “Ma’am Jenny,” Benhur Luy was tasked to keep tabs on their pork barrel financial transactions with lawmakers.  

Janet Lim Napoles had wanted to keep things simple, and Luy, a graduate of medical technology, devised a basic audit system detailing the daily inflow and outflow of money.

Luy’s ledger listed the names of the lawmakers and the amount of kickbacks they received in exchange for their pork barrel, year on year. It also showed the extent of Napoles’ operation in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The ledger provides a piece of the puzzle on how misuse of pork barrel funds began and spread like a virus among lawmakers.

While 3 senators are bearing the brunt of the pork barrel scandal, largely overlooked was how entrenched Napoles was in the House of Representatives. Using a number of dubious non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as fronts, Napoles and a number legislators engaged in a scheme that was mutually beneficial.

House payroll

Based on a ledger prepared by Luy, between 2004 and 2008, Napoles at one time had as many as 36 House members under her payroll. This means that at one point, she controlled about 15% of the total number of House members.

Beginning 2004 when Luy started keeping records, Napoles already had 18 House members in her fold. The following year, the number grew to 36. Total payoffs ranged from P250,000 to as high as P16 million for one legislator.

In 2006, the year when the Senate investigated the P724-million fertilizer scam that also dragged Napoles, the number of House members conniving with her went down to 22. Except for the 3 senators, the breakdown of rebates also decreased.

In 2007, Napoles’ clients in the House barely increased but the rebates per legislator jumped by 300%. Three House members got more than P20 million in rebates. This could be explained by 2007 being an election year, and lawmakers could have been trying to beef up their campaign war chest. 

The following year, the number of legislators under her control went down to 14. What happened?

A cursory check showed that some of Napoles’ new clients either served out their terms or they lost the elections the year before, which reflected the shrinkage of her web. Also by this time, other groups of NGOs similar to hers had penetrated the House of Representatives and had established their own networks of legislators.

The special audit report covering 2007-2010 seems to buttress this observation.

Napoles’ 12 disciples

While her circle of legislators went up and down, Napoles managed to keep a clique of legislators as her regular clients. These regular “clients” were the usual legislators that funneled their pork barrel to her NGOs year after year.

The ledger showed that at any given year, Napoles  maintained a loyal group of 12 congressmen in her scheme.  Included in this clique were former Reps Rodolfo Plaza (Agusan del Sur), Samuel Dangwa (Benguet), Constantino Jaraula (Cagayan de Oro), Rizalina Leachon-Lanete (Masbate) and Edgar Valdez (APEC party list). They are all facing plunder complaints before the Ombudsman.

Other lawmakers who were regular clients of Napoles were former Reps Prospero Pichay (Surigao), Marc Douglas Cagas (Davao del Sur), Arthur Pinggoy (South Cotabato), incumbent party-list Rep Conrado Estrella II, Manuel Ortega, who is now a La Union governor, the late Erwin Chiongbian (Sarangani) and the late Antonio Serapio (Valenzuela). The rest had limited engagement of one to 3 years.

Click on or seach for the names of the NGOs to view their networks. Map by UP’s National Institute of Physics

Rivals and copy cats

Unlike the Senate however, the House of Representatives is a bigger universe, which allows other players apart from Napoles, to participate in dubious schemes.

Napoles may be the poster queen of pork barrel, but she did not have a monopoly over the PDAF of House members.

Mapping the findings of the special Commission on Audit report (COA) on PDAF, a team from the University of the Philippines’ National Institute of Physics led by Dr Giovanni Tapang found that out of the 63 NGOS, there were 7 major NGO networks that operated in the House. This includes Napoles’ NGO network. (See the original versions of the map here and here.)

The mapping was a revelation, as it showed that it was free-for-all for PDAF as far as the House of Representatives is concerned.

Without factoring in the PDAF from the Senate, Napoles’ network of NGOs actually paled in comparison with the other networks in penetrating and cornering the PDAF of House members from 2007 to 2009.

The COA report showed that Napoles’ NGO network clinched a total of P2.157 billion of pork barrel funds from both the House and the Senate. However, of this amount, P1.38 billion came from senators’ PDAF, while P774.72 million was sourced from the House.

But the biggest player beating Napoles by a mile, was a network of 8 NGOs led by the Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc (KKAMFI).

GMA News Research, in an earlier report, said that KKAMFI, had 7 other sister NGOs based on the common names of incorporators that appeared in the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A check with the COA report showed that this network alone got P973.497 million of PDAF from 2007-2009. Half of this amount — P526.679 million — went to KKAMFI alone.

Incorporated only in 2006, KKAMFI’s supposed projects focused on agricultural programs, such as the procurement of seedlings, farm implements, and livelihood technology kits. 

In its report, COA found KKAMFI to be dubious after auditors failed to locate its location in 3 addresses. One given address was non-existent, while two other given addresses were occupied by people not related to the NGO.

The COA discovered KKAMFI’s other network of NGOs after common names were observed  as incorporators in other  NGOs. Three people — Godofredo G. Roque, Marilou L. Antonio, Marilou C. Ferrer — were found to be common links to these NGOs.

Like Napoles’ regular clientele for her scheme, the KKAMFI’s network had its own share of network of loyal House members—with at least 27 lawmakers funneling between P10 million to P65 million of their PDAF.

It counted among its core of legislators — or those who gave huge amounts or repeatedly channeled their PDAF to this network — former Reps Antonio Cuenco (Cebu), Miles Roces (Manila), Marina Clarete (Misamis Occidental), Reno Lim (Albay), Gerardo Espina (Biliran), Alfonso Umali (Nueva Ecija), Roberto Cajes (Bohol), Edgardo Chatto (Bohol), Eduardo Zialcita (Parañaque), Rodolfo Antonino (Nueva Ecija), Hussin Amin (Sulu), Joseph Santiago (Catanduanes), and Thomas Dumpit (La Union), and incumbent Reps Isidro Ungab (Davao City), Niel Tupas (Iloilo) and A-Teacher party-list Rep Mariano Piamonte.  

The Visayas and Mindanao bloc

Giving KKAMFI a run for its money was the Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc (AFPI). Based on the COA report, AFPI cornered the second biggest chunk, at P524.91 million, or P3 million shy of beating KKAMFI.

Like the others, auditors found AFPI’s address in Gagalangin, Tondo to be non-existent, actually a vacant lot storing equipment of the Maynilad Water Services Inc. Its purported suppliers of agricultural products could not be located too.

The NGO was a beneficiary of generosity from 26 legislators — more than half (19) were from Visayas and Mindanao while 4 were from Luzon, and 3 from party lists. 

As the second biggest beneficiary of pork barrel in the Lower House, KKAMFI shamed Napoles’ best performing NGO — Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc — which got a total of P262.909 million only during the 3-year period. Its single biggest benefactor was former Surigao del Sur Rep Phiilp Pichay who allocated P162 million of his pork barrel.

Pichay succeeded his brother Prospero Pichay Jr in the House. The elder Pichay, who also awarded funds to KKAMFI, launched a failed senatorial bid in 2007. 

Its second biggest benefactor was former Davao City Rep Prospero Nograles, also the first House Speaker to come from Mindanao. He represented the first district of Davao City and was a ranking member of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s party, Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

Other huge benefactors were former Reps Jose Carlos Lacson (Negros Occidental), Aurelio Umali (Nueva Ecija), Rolex Suplico (Iloilo), Eduardo Veloso (Leyte), Eduardo Gullas (Cebu), Marcelino Libanan (Eastern Samar), Gregorio Ipong (Cotabato) and Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC) party-list Rep Ernesto Pablo. 

NGO inside DA compound

Providing competition in the race to corner pork barrel in the House was the NGO Farmerbusiness Development Corp whose office is right inside the Department of Agriculture compound in Quezon City. Harnessing 27 congressmen as benefactors, it got a total of P248.4 million in PDAF.

One of the few NGOs that have legitimate business permits, FDC failed the integrity test of the COA. Many of its supposed beneficiaries could not be independently confirmed, casting doubt on the validity of its transactions.

Based on the UP-NIP map, FDC is connected to the Napoles network through the late Sarangani Rep Erwin Chiongbian, who also channeled funds to Napoles NGOs. 

Bukidnon lawmaker Candido Pancrudo Jr is its biggest benefactor, allocating P36.9 million of his pork barrel. He was followed by Davao City 3rd district Rep Isidro Ungab who funneled P23.4 million.

Ungab presently heads the powerful appropriations committee in the House, which oversees the entire budgeting process. He is now affiliated with the ruling Liberal Party. 

Other big-time benefactors included former Reps Yevgeny Vicente Emano (Misamis Oriental), Orlando Fua (Siquijor), and incumbent Reps Julio Ledesma IV (Negros Occidental), and Belma Cabilao (Zamboanga Sibugay). 

Minor players

Other minor players entangled in the pork barrel web were the Dr Rodolfo A. Ignacio Sr Foundation (DRAISFI), which got a total of P164.22 million from 15 legislators, and Ito Na Movement Foundation Inc (ITO NA MI), which got P124.86 million from 12 former House members and Hand-Made Living Foundation Inc (HMLFI) which got P42. 2 million from 6 legislators.

DRAISFI’s main benefactors however were not House members but two senators — Manuel Lapid who gave P22 million and Juan Ponce Enrile, who allocated P35.55 million. House members who allocated more than P10 million of their PDAF to the NGO were former Reps Federico Sandoval II (Malabon-Navotas) and Clavel Martinez (Cebu) and incumbent Surigao Rep Francisco Matugas.

By the time of the COA probe, auditors found that DRAISFI was not registered with the SEC anymore. In the UP-NIP map, DRAISFI is closely connected to the Napoles NGOs via Enrile, one of the 3 senators accused of plundering lawmakers’ funds. 

For its part, ITO NA MI was incorporated on July 7, 2003 with a business address of 163 Rizal St Daraga, Albay, according to the SEC. Auditors found that its Metro Manila address in Cityland Mega Plaza was non-existent. The NGO failed to submit documents to support its training programs and supposed livelihood kits to farmers. Suppliers also denied doing business with the NGO.

Northern Samar Rep Emil Ong was the NGO’s single biggest benefactor, with P51.4 million, followed by former Buhay Rep Christian Señeres who allocated P13.96 million

HMLFI’s total funds received may be smaller compared to those received by its counterparts, but it also has a spot in the interlocking web of NGOs. Its main contributors were the late Rep Antonio Serapio and former Rep and now Caloocan Mayor Oscar Malapitan. State auditors found that its given address was a residential unit, and staff ignored requests for documents. – Rappler.com


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