Agri chief faces graft raps from his time in CongressBy Cynthia D. Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala was slapped with graft and falsification charges in the Office of the Ombudsman for the allegedly fraudulent disbursement of some P3.5 million in pork barrel funds intended for farmers during his term as congressman of the second district of Quezon from 2007 to 2010.
In a seven-page complaint, Ramon Talaga Jr. on Monday sought Alcala’s preventive suspension from office while the graft case is being investigated.
Talaga said that in 2008, Alcala allocated P3.5 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to support a project of an organization called Sir Pelagio Alcantara Development (Spade) Foundation Inc. entitled “Proceso sa Pag-asenso: Proyektong Lingap-Kalinga para sa Kabuhayan ng mga Piling Magsasaka ng Ikalawang Distrito ng Quezon.”
He said the project was supposedly intended to provide livelihood assistance to poor farmer-families in his district.
A report submitted by the Spade Foundation to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, duly noted by Alcala, said there were 65 farmer-families that received P50,000 each from the capital assistance project as of May 15, 2008, based on 65 disbursement vouchers.
Talaga said the money never reached most—if not all—the named beneficiaries. He said a number of farmers who denied having received the funds through vouchers claimed their signatures were faked.
The farmers were being required to pay back sums they had not received for a loan or fund assistance project they never made or participated in, he said.
Talaga submitted a sworn affidavit of one Mario Magadia, a supposed farmer-beneficiary, who claimed he never received P50,000 despite a voucher showing he had signed it.
Talaga also cited 15 other sworn affidavits with the same complaint.
“It is thus plain that Mr. Alcala’s PDAF allocated for this project was not given to its intended beneficiary and, worse, documents pertaining to its disbursement were falsified with Mr. Alcala’s full cooperation to successfully defraud the government of funds intended for public use,” he said.
The complaint further said that documents pertaining to the project showed the “dubious selection” of Spade Foundation as beneficiary considering that it is not even a nongovernmental organization based in Quezon province but in La Union.
It said the foundation’s articles of incorporation say it is not meant to help farmers in the province but to promote, undertake, manage, establish or otherwise set up funds for socioeconomic, cultural, civic or charitable ends for the poor within the Ilocano-speaking provinces.
The complainant urged the Ombudsman to also investigate and file criminal charges against Alcala’s alleged coconspirators, including Claron Alcantara, president of Spade Foundation, Pelagio Alcantara Jr., Dylan Alcantara, Crescencia Alcantara and Venido Alcantara, all directors of the foundation.
“Falsification and graft and corruption are malevolent acts that have no place in government. Public service requires utmost integrity and discipline,” Talaga said.