Estrada calls for probe into channelling of pork barrel funds to bogus NGOBy Maila Ager
MANILA, Philippines – Senate Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada is calling for a Senate inquiry how his and other lawmakers’ priority development assistance fund (PDAF) was channelled to a bogus non-government organization.
PDAF is also known as “pork barrel” of congressmen and senators.
“I am calling for this thorough investigation to determine how our Priority Development Assistance Fund was able to benefit a non-existing organization. We need to unmask those who benefited from this scheme,” Estrada said in a statement on Thursday.
A report of the Commission on Audit revealed that the P194.97 million funds that went to the Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc. came from the PDAF of Estrada (P106.7 million), Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile (P74.69 million), Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. (P9.7 million) and former Buhay Representative Rene Velarde (P3.88 million).
The fund was part of the total amount of P206 million that was released to the Department of Agriculture. Of the amount, P201 million was released to state-owned ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC), which turned over the P194.97 million to PFI.
At that time, Estrada said, lawmakers were informed by the DA that the foundation was “a legitimate organization and that our pork barrel will be used to benefit thousands of farmers.”
“Now that COA revealed in its report that this NGO is non-existent, we need to ask the former agriculture secretary as well as the ZREC board on why they channelled the taxpayers’ money to this bogus organization,” he said.
“If these personalities do not appear in our investigation, I would ask for their arrest,” Estrada added.
He said appropriate legal action may now also be filed against PFI for its alleged failure to comply with audit recommendations.
In its report, COA said, the president of PFI, Petronila A. Balmaceda, had not coordinated with the ZREC to be able to settle the issues raised in audit.
“Considering that PFI failed to comply with the audit recommendations and had not coordinated for almost two years now, it is high time that the management pursue the filing of appropriate legal action against PFI,” Estrada added.
Revilla, in a separate statement, also urged the agriculture department and the PFI to explain how the funds were spent.
After checking the records in his office, the senator confirmed using his PDAF to help the people in Basilan.
“Dapat lamang na magpaliwanag ang DA at ang mismong NGO na tumanggap ng pondo upang maliwanagan ng publiko kung saan talaga napunta ang inilaan na pondo ng opisina natin Senado para sa mga mahihirap nating kababayan sa Basilan,” Revilla said.
(DA and the NGO that received funds should explain so that for the public will know where the Senate funds allotted to the poor communities in Basilan went.)
“Naniniwala tayong hindi dapat ipagwalang-bahala ng DA at ng NGO ang isyung ito. Kailangang managot kung sino man ang may kinalaman sa paglapastangan sa pondo ng publiko,” he said.
(We believe that the DA and the NGO should not ignore this issue. The party responsible for the fund mess should be held accountable.)