Friday, March 28, 2014

Ex-Nabcor execs bare P5-B agri scam

By Edu Punay 
The Philippine Star
Rhodora Mendoza, former Nabcor vice president for administration and finance, and Victor Roman Cacal
Rhodora Mendoza, former Nabcor vice president for administration and finance, and Victor Roman Cacal
MANILA, Philippines – Two former officials of state-owned National Agri-Business Corp. (Nabcor) bared to the Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday another P5-billion scam involving non-pork barrel funds.
Rhodora Mendoza, former Nabcor vice president for administration and finance, and Victor Roman Cacal, former general services supervisor, met with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima behind closed doors and submitted affidavits detailing alleged misuse of funds for nine agricultural projects that the firm undertook during the previous administration.
Speaking to reporters, lawyer Levito Baligod, who represents the two, said he expects the DOJ to file new plunder charges against officials whom he did not name based on the new evidence.
“There was irregular release of funds because there was no public bidding conducted as required by law on projects worth over P50,000,” he said. “The checks were released without supporting documents. We have evidence to show that the head of agencies signed even without the signature of the subordinate officials.”
Baligod said one of the projects involved P300 million in funds from the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) rice program in 2009 that Nabcor handled under the Department of Agriculture (DA).
“For example, there was P105 million for technical studies meant for 10 NGOs (non-government organizations) but it appeared that the payments were remitted to a Nabcor official,” he said.
“The DA had good programs for our farmers, but the problem is when it comes to implementation they (officials) themselves sabotage these projects.”
The affidavits of Mendoza and Cacal also cover projects involving post harvest facilities, Barangay Food Terminal and Agricultural Competitive Enhancement Fund.
Baligod, former lawyer of Benhur Luy, said Nabcor issued checks in the names of broadcasters Erwin Tulfo and Melo del Prado.
“I am not ready at this point to comment if it was legitimate or not,” he said.
Baligod said they just submitted the affidavits and supporting documents to the DOJ.
It would be up to the DOJ who among the officials involved would be charged before the Office of the Ombudsman, he added.
Probe questioned
President Aquino was questioned yesterday for ordering an investigation into another potential pork barrel scam involving about half a billion pesos coursed through the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF).
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said it is “another proof of an awful management” under the Aquino presidency.
“I don’t like that idea and I am suspicious of it,” he said. “Why will he ask Peter to investigate Paul? Why wouldn’t he get an outsider to investigate it?”
The chairman of the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions, and currencies doubts that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, whom Aquino ordered to to submit a comprehensive report on the issue, will be able to come out with a fair report on the matter.
“See? What does it say?” he asked. “It means that there is corruption regardless of how honest P-Noy is. It’s a matter of management, if you don’t have proper management control in place, these things will always happen.
“Even in ordinary private corporations, if you don’t have the right auditing or control procedures, you’ll get scammed. Whether you own BPI or PDLT.”
Osmeña said any congressional inquiry would depend on individual lawmakers because it takes just a resolution to call for an investigation.
“How would you ask Abad when it is supposed that it was Abad who released the money?” he said.
Osmena said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) should do the investigation.
“Why don’t they call the NBI? They should not be the ones. They are not the investigators. That bothers me that they are not trained investigators.”
Scam denied
NCMF head Mehol Sadain, a former elections commissioner, denied yesterday that the agency was involved in a multi-million-peso pork barrel fund scam.
In a letter to The STAR, Sadain, who is also a member of the government peace panel dealing with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF), took issue with the paper’s story that auditors have noted irregularities in the use of P515 million that two senators and 38 members of the House of Representatives had allocated to NCMF and ended up with 18 foundations and non-government organizations (NGOs).
The story was based on the 2012 Commission on Audit (COA) annual audit report on NCMF.
It is posted on the COA website under the Office of the President (OP), since the NCMF is an OP agency.
Sadain said the report was meant as “internal communication between the resident auditor and NCMF for justification and submission of documents required by the resident auditor.”
“It is not even a final audit of the funds as the resident auditor has suspended the audit to await the documents due by end of April this year,” he said.
His letter is dated Monday, the same day Aquino ordered Ochoa, Abad and Almendras to look into the audit findings on NCMF.
Aquino indicated he did not know that NCMF was a Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) implementing agency, and that lawmakers had allocated hundreds of millions in PDAF to it. PDAF was the official name of the congressional pork barrel.
In its annual audit report for Sadain’s agency, the COA said NCMF received a total of P515 million in 2012 in pork barrel funds. Of that amount, the audit commission classified P25 million as having been sourced from Malacañang’s controversial disbursement acceleration program.
In his letter, Sadain said NCMF has been a PDAF-implementing agency since 2011. He denied that some of the 18 foundations with which the P515 million ended up were identified with suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
He admitted that the lawmakers endorsed the foundations and NGOs, but that NCMF has adopted an accreditation process that required these entities to submit 15 documents “to prove their existence, eligibility and capability to undertake the project.”
In fact, he said he has disqualified Kapuso’t Kapamilya Foundation, “which had projects under the previous administration.”
However, the 2012 annual audit report for the Muslim commission showed that Kapuso’t Kapamilya was allocated a total of P64 million through NCMF by seven House members, including a party-list representative who gave it P37 million.
The other NGOs and the amount of funds they received through the commission were Focus on Development Goals Foundation, P30 million; Livedures Foundation, P37 million; Kaagapay Magpakainlanman Foundation, P160 million; Maharlikang Lipi Foundation, P67.7 million; Rich Islas de Filipinas Foundation, Inc., P62 million; Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation, P25.170 million; Kabalikat sa Kalusugan Foundation, P17 million; Kaisa’t Kaagapay Mo Foundation, P3 million; Workphil Foundation, P1 million; Kaakbay-buhay Foundation, P3.5; Pangkabuhayan Foundation, P5 million; Coprahan at Gulayan, Inc., P14 million; BL Personal Touch Foundation, P11 million; UF Multi-purpose Corp., P1.1 million; and Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation, P10 million.
Some of these foundations are among NGOs that figured prominently in the COA special audit report on billions of PDAF disbursed between 2007 and 2009.
For instance, Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation received P526.7 million, according to the special report, while Pangkabuhayan Foundation, which has been linked to Napoles, received P396.1 million. Some P107.5 million went to Kapuso’t Kapamilya Foundation.
“The audit team was informed that the concerned lawmakers were the ones who identified the NGOs/POs (people’s organizations), and not NCMF, as evidenced by the letters of the lawmakers to the secretary of the NCMF,” the NCMF annual audit report said.
“It is our view that the selection of NGOs/POs should be undertaken by NCMF because the funds were released to NCMF, and therefore, the same agency is duty-bound to account for the funds to the government and/or beneficiaries,” the audit team said. – With Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz

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