MASANTOL, Pampanga—An emergency agricultural aid project funded by government’s share of royalties from the Malampaya gas project in Palawan did not have the cooperation of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Central Luzon or the local government here, officials said on Saturday.
“It did not pass through the DAR regional office,” said Agrarian Reform Assistant Secretary Teofilo Inocencio, a former DAR Central Luzon director, when asked for details regarding the agency’s Farming Yield Emergency Contingency Project in 2009.
Some supposed beneficiaries of this project denied having received agricultural input packages, each worth P35,781, that consisted of a heavy-duty sprayer, an organized container, farming paraphernalia, gloves, various seeds and seedlings.
The farmers also reported that their signatures, which appeared on DAR documents, were falsified.
The Commission on Audit’s (COA) special audits office has been conducting a sectoral performance audit on the project, which the DAR implemented through Kaupdanan para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (KMFI).
Arnel Cunanan, Teody Salarda and Gerry Viray, all fishermen, said they learned about the project’s anomalies through letters sent to them by Susan Garcia, COA director of the special audits office, who asked them to confirm if they received the kits.
According to documents, the kits would have cost the government P89.2 million.
Former Vice Mayor Marcelo Lacap Jr. said he has tried to communicate with COA, on behalf of the supposed recipients who want to be removed from the lists.
“My town mates are worried because they are afraid that the amount would be charged to them, or that they may face charges and be jailed. They are only subsistence fishermen. To earn more, they double up as caretaker of fishponds. They must be cleared [of any liability],” Lacap said.
Mayor Peter Flores said he does not remember meeting DAR employees or KMFI coordinators about the project.
“My God, I don’t even know that they coordinated with me,” Flores said. “Whoever did that does not know Masantol. Most of the lands here are used for fishponds. We don’t have agrarian reform communities.”
An online check revealed that KMFI operates at L10 Phase 3, Rosal St., TS Cruz Subdivision, Almanza Dos in Las Piñas City.
Pampanga Board Member Nestor Tolentino said the irregularity “must be threshed out,” suggesting that the provincial board’s agriculture committee should initiate an investigation.
Lacap said he and the fishermen are trying to find out who supplied their names to KMFI.