Sunday, March 23, 2014

Miriam sees conspiracy in NABCOR scam

by Willard Cheng and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Senator Miriam Santiago believes there is a conspiracy behind the misuse of National Agribusiness Corp. (NABCOR) funds, saying she wants to know how the modus operandi was carried out.

Santiago has filed a resolution for the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to invite two former NABCOR officials to its probe on the pork barrel scam.

"I want to know what these higher level officials in the Department of Agriculture were doing if it is correct that this is a high-level conspiracy. There has to be a conspiracy here because we see the results which is plunder but we have to know what exactly was the modus operandi. That is always the subject of the senatorial investigations. We want to know what was the procedure used so that you can plug the loopholes of that procedure," she said.

"Subordinates normally will not have the courage to fight against a movement or a project that was begun by the very boss of the office."

Former NABCOR officials Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Cacal earlier revealed widespread irregularities at the agency amounting to billions of pesos in agricultural funds. They said these irregularities range from the misuse of the "Ginintuang Masaganang Ani" and pork barrel funds in the past to the hiring of ghost employees in the present administration.

Mendoza said she was one of the signatories of NABCOR cheques drawn against legislators' pork barrel funds to the agency for certain agricultural projects. She said her former boss, ex-NABCOR president Alan Javellana, was behind questionable transactions for 4 Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) projects worth P1.4 billion.

Part of the P1.4 billion was used to bankroll the campaign expenses of lawmakers, they said.
The two officials also linked former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap to the multibillion-peso NABCOR fund mess.

Come clean on corruption - Palace
Meanwhile, a Palace spokesman called on everyone including members of the media to come clean about their possible involvement in the pork barrel scam.

This, after it was reported that some members of the media may have benefited from funds that were siphoned off from pork barrel funded projects implemented through NABCOR.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said this is a call to everyone with knowledge of any of the cases.

Lacierda pointed out that government can only come in if there's enough information to investigate.

"The call is not directed to anyone in particular. It's a call directed to everyone who has knowledge of any of the cases...Government will only act if there's information and if it is an information, we can investigate. There will be instances of chatter or gossip, so we have to separate the chaff from the grain. And the only way we could do that is if we will have reliable information to do it," he said.

The spokesman said media personalities were linked to scam based on the affidavit filed by Mendoza and Cacal.

He said he will leave it to media companies to police their ranks on the matter of corruption.

"Rather than having that conversation in government, perhaps the conversation should take place within media itself. You are talking about the role of media. So I think that should first be discussed]. That particular discussion or the conversation should take place in media, within your circle. But insofar as involving public funds is concerned, I think, our responsibility is to investigate. Whether you're from media, whether you're from the government, whether you're from the private sector, if it involves public funds then it is now the responsibility and the mandate, in this case, of the Department of Justice to investigate."

A Philippine Daily Inquirer report on Tuesday said TV5 news anchor Erwin Tulfo and Radio DzBB broadcaster Melo del Prado allegedly received payoffs in the form of "advertising expenses" from the government agency in 2009.

The Inquirer report also quoted Mendoza as saying that another "TV and radio personality" received P2 million from NABCOR President Alan Javellana on the instruction of then DA Secretary Arthur Yap "as payoff to stop criticisms of a NABCOR project."

Tulfo has denied the charges and threatened to file a libel suit against the Inquirer.

Atty. Nelson Borja, Tulfo's counsel, said PDI's headline story is libelous and completely damaging to his stature as a broadcaster.

Borja said his client is ready to face allegations, adding that he has documents to prove that what Tulfo went into was a legal transaction and was payment for an advertising slot while he was still a commentator at RMN DZXL. Those payments were subject to taxes, he said.

Meanwhile, GMA-DZBB will conduct a thorough investigation into the news report.

In a statement, Radio Operations Group consultant Mike Enriquez said: “In accordance with standard procedure, we will conduct a thorough investigation on any allegation of any violations. Due process will be observed and we will ensure that full sanctions will be applied if determined to be necessary.”

He said the network continues to adhere to standards of professional and personal behavior for all employees.

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