Senate probers told of Malampaya fund misuseBy Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Senate blue ribbon committee on Thursday learned that a road project funded by the Malampaya gas project in Palawan received millions of pesos for its implementation three times in three months.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the panel, said the revelations of the Commission on Audit and independent people’s organizations clearly showed that anomalies attended the disbursement of Palawan’s share from the revenues from the gas project.
Confronted with what was obviously an overlapping of contracts for one and the same stretch of national road, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said Malampaya funds must have been released too quickly during those times.
“It’s clear that there are anomalies… It’s clear they played with the funds,” Guingona told reporters following yesterday’s continuation of the hearing on the P3.9-billion worth of Palawan infrastructure disallowed by the Commission on Audit due to irregularities.
Lawyer Grizelda Mayo-Anda of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center said that one road project was given an allocation of P20 million in December 2007, P14 million for the improvement of the same stretch in January 2008 and another P20 million in February 2008.
Anda said another P20 million was given to the same road project at another instance in 2008.
“Is there overlapping of contracts?” Anda asked.
Singson said that the funds seemed to have been allotted to the Department of Public Works and Highways for the implementation of the road project even without a request from officials in the department.
“It seems that the funds just arrived and then they prepared details on how to utilize the funds. I don’t think they even requested these kinds of amounts that came rather quickly,” Singson said.
The widow and daughter of environmentalist journalist Dr. Gerry Ortega again attended the hearing on the anomalies that he exposed when he was still alive. They believe Ortega’s commentary on the issue led to his assassination.
The principal suspect in the assassination is former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes, who was the governor at the time the Malampaya funds were released to the province, the city of Puerto Princesa and the congressional districts.
“It seems that more than [almost] P4 billion is involved. We’re just talking here about Malampaya. We have yet to talk about the funds from the general appropriations. We have yet to talk about what Palawan is earning from the other industries,” said Ortega’s daughter Micah.
The Ortegas believe that Reyes and even incumbent Gov. Abraham Mitra, a congressman when the questioned projects were implemented during the Arroyo administration, were involved in the anomalies.