COA finds collusion in Malampaya Fund plunder
MANILA, Philippines – On Jan 27, 2010, former mayor Bony Tacio of Sablan, Benguet purportedly signed a certificate of project completion from a non-governmental organization (NGO) that showed he received the farm tools and equipment for the farmers affected by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009.
The money used for the procurement of the farm equipment was sourced from the Malampaya Fund allocation of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The Fund was intended as relief assistance to farmers affected by the successive natural calamities that struck in 2009.
At first glance, the document seemed above-board, with the requisite signatures of Tacio and the NGO president included in it.
But there was one problem: on Jan 26, 2010, Tacio suffered a stroke, the right side of his body paralyzed. He had to stay in the hospital for days to recuperate.
With his dominant right hand immobile like a vegetable, he could not have signed the document, or "received" the farm tools on behalf of the farmers, Tacio told Commission on Audit (COA) investigators looking into the alleged misuse of the Malampaya Fund.
Tacio said this was the 4th time that he got a document “covering the same modus operandi of falsifying his signatures by means of cut and paste technology.” The only difference this time was that he supposedly received the tools, which was impossible, since he had just suffered a debilitating stroke the day before.
Based on the testimony of pork barrel principal witness Benhur Luy, the Malampaya Fund scam was perpetrated by DAR officials and his cousin, Janet Lim-Napoles, also tagged as the mastermind behind the misused pork barrel of lawmakers.
Luy said he and other Napoles staff forged the signatures of mayors to make it appear they were tapping specific NGOs to implement the DAR calamity support for farmers. These NGOs were, in turn, just Napoles fronts who were part of her scheme.
A total of P900 million of the Malampaya Fund was allocated to the DAR for calamity support. The money was cornered by 12 NGOs related to Napoles. The NGOs in turn supposedly delivered farm implements in 97 municipalities.
In October 2011, COA began conducting an audit of the released sums taken from the Malampaya Fund. Confirmation requests to local government units that that supposedly benefitted from the fund were sent out.
Not surprisingly, mayors denied having received any funding, or having dealt with any of the NGOs that handled the funds.
Some of the mayors were surprised and shocked that they supposedly benefitted from the fund, with their forged signatures in documents. Some gave blanket denials, while others went to the extent of telling COA that their names had been misspelled to prove their innocence.
The case of Tacio was the more unusual one that, for him, provided convincing proof of his innocence.
Ghost beneficiaries, related NGOs
The COA findings on the Malampaya Fund only buttressed what Luy had said: that they recycled and used fictitious names to make it appear there were actual beneficiaries.
For instance, of the supposed 1,964 beneficiaries of the dubious NGO Karangyaan Para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc (KPMFI), only 14 are farmers and actual agrarian reform beneficiaries. In the case of Gintong Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc (GPFI), not one of the 502 supposed recipients in 4 towns actually existed.
Non-existent beneficiaries were a common recurrence among the other NGOs.
In his testimony, Luy said the money paid to the Napoles-linked NGOs were deposited in her bank accounts and the COA investigation supported this.
At least 4 NGOs – KPMFI, GPFI, Saganang Buhay Sa Atin Foundation Inc, and Tanglaw para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc – deposited their Malampaya collections in two Metrobank accounts purportedly under Napoles’ name.
Another smoking gun was the fake public notaries and accountants of the 12 NGOs. Two of them (notaries and accountants) were not found in the database of the Philippine Regulation Commission.
Just like the other Napoles-linked NGOs in the pork barrel scam, the 12 NGOs tapped for the Malampaya Fund gave dubious addresses, ranging from numerous office addresses, non-existent locations, vacant lots, residential houses, and even a canteen.
It took only less than 3 months, from October to December 2009, for the P900-million Malampaya allocation to DAR to disappear in thin air. It was a crime Napoles and her staff pulled off almost perfectly unnoticed, in collaboration with DAR officials. (READ: 2 Napoles NGOs got P95M in one day)
Former DAR secretary Nasser Pangandaman, in his reply to COA, insisted that the projects were above board and that there were no irregularities since these were covered by MOAs. It was Nasser who asked Malacanang then for the P900-million allocation. (READ: How the Malampaya Fund was plundered)
Former DAR undersecretary Narciso Nieto, who authorized the initial release of P200 million to the fake NGOs, refused to comment, saying that the case is already being investigated by the Department of Justice.
However Nieto clarified it was not him who came up with the P900 million amount, but Pangandaman. “I just performed the duties as mandated by my office in all good faith and had no participation or knowledge about any irregularity,” Nieto told COA.
Former DAR finance office head Teresita Panlilio, a dear friend of Napoles, argued that the money was released to the NGOs as an emergency case thus precluding any need for public bidding. She also said the department “scrutinized the liquidation reports and other documentary requirements” and found no trace of fraud. Panlilio signed the rest of the checks for the release of the funds.
But the COA was not convinced.
Among others, the COA found suspicious that all the checks issued to the NGOs were no more than P10 million, the signing limit of the Undersecretary of DAR. Any amount above P10 million required the signature of the DAR secretary.
To skirt the limit, the P900 million was distributed to the 12 NGOs which, in turn, distributed the amount to 97 municipalities. “Payments to NGOs were done per MOA so as not to exceed the signing authority of the Undersecretary of DAR,” COA observed. Still, this is in violation of the splitting of contracts as provided for by several COA circulars and RA 9184.
In its recommendation, the COA sought criminal accountability and the filing of appropriate charges against all those who participated in the scam. – Rappler.com