COA securing fishermen’s affidavits
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The Commission on Audit (COA) is sending a team to Masantol, Pampanga, to receive the affidavits of fishermen who were used in what appears to be a ghost project of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) which led to the loss of at least P89 million of government shares in the Malampaya gas project in Palawan.
Susan Garcia, head of the COA’s special audit office, on Tuesday said the affidavits of the fishermen will help in the removal of names of fishermen who did not benefit from the project and who now fear being charged along with the project’s proponents.
Garcia was at a forum on the anomaly last Tuesday with COA Commissioner Heidi Mendoza, former Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio, former Masantol Mayor Marcelo Lacap Jr. and other officials.
At the meeting, Garcia said the names of farmers who were made to appear as having benefited from the project could not be immediately removed from the beneficiaries’ list until the completion of the full audit of how the Malampaya funds were used.
George Viray, representative of the fishermen at the forum, said fishermen from Masantol who were listed as project beneficiaries wanted their names removed from the beneficiaries’ list to free them from any liability.
“I told them I am very poor. I don’t have money to pay for items that I did not receive,” said Viray, who is listed as beneficiary No. 174 of the project.
Documents show that the DAR’s emergency contingency project had cost P89.2 million and should have benefited up to 2,500 farmers.
Viray said he offered COA the following details: He did not receive an agricultural package worth P35,781 from the DAR project; he does not own any farm land upon which these materials could be used; he did not meet any representative of the Kaupdanan para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (KMFI) which facilitated the DAR project; and that he had not signed any DAR project document.
John Raymund de Asis, president and chair of the KMFI, did not answer calls and text messages seeking his group’s side on the matter on Wednesday. Kasosyo party-list Rep. Nasser Pangadaman, former DAR chief, did not also respond to inquiries.
The COA 2010 report showed that from 2002 to 2010, P23.601 billion of the Malampaya funds were released to various government agencies and to the province of Palawan, according to a 2011 Inquirer story.
National government agencies received P19.643 billion, but only 1.27 percent of this amount went to the Department of Energy for the electrification of 211 villages.
Antigraft groups have called for the filing of plunder against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Gov. Joel Reyes for misuse of Malampaya funds.