2 mayors on pork projects: We got nothingBy Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon
CANDELARIA, Quezon—The syndicate behind a P10-billion scam employed a good signature forger to secure multimillion-peso projects for dummy nongovernment organizations in the towns of Candelaria and Mulanay in Quezon province, the mayors there said.
“At first glance, they look like my signature but closer scrutiny will reveal the forgery. Whoever faked my signature was a good forger,” Mayor Ferdinand Maliwanag of Candelaria said in an interview on Tuesday.
Former Mayor Prudencio Maxino of Mulanay was surprised when told that his town had been the beneficiary of a P10-million project from Agri and Economic Performance for Farmers Inc., one of several dozen that Janet Lim-Napoles, president and CEO of JLN group of companies, was alleged to have set up over the past decade.
“It’s my first time to hear the name of that NGO,” Maxino, who served three terms totaling nine years, said in a telephone interview on Monday.
Six whistle-blowers have executed affidavits accusing Napoles of setting up dummy NGOs to secure funding for ghost projects from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, of senators and members of the House of Representatives, royalties from the Malampaya gas project off Palawan, and budget allocations of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
The racket went on for a decade until it was exposed by Benhur Luy, a JLN employee, who allegedly was kidnapped in December last year and held captive for three months. After his rescue, Luy issued statements accusing Napoles of the shenanigans. The latter, however, has denied any wrongdoing.
On May 11, 2012, Susan Garcia, a Commission on Audit (COA) director, wrote Maliwanag for confirmation of his signatures on documents pertaining to the release by the Department of Budget of Management of P7.5 million to Micro Agri Business Citizen Initiative Foundation Inc. (MABCF) for assistance to victims of Typhoon “Ondoy.”
The documents were dated from Oct. 19, 2009, to Jan. 25, 2010, about a supposed DAR project in Candelaria to be financed by the Malampaya fund.
On June 12, 2012, Maliwanag replied to Garcia and “vehemently denied” that the municipality had asked the DAR for funding assistance. He said his signatures on the documents were forged and that the project was nonexistent.
MABCF is said to be one of the dummy NGOs of Napoles. Whistle-blower Luy said the JLN firm had opened an account for MABCF at the Metrobank, Magdalena branch in Binondo.
Maliwanag showed several documents on the purported program sent by the COA, which he claimed were all carrying his fake signatures.
The first document dated Oct. 19, 2009, was on the letterhead of the municipality of Candelaria. In the letter, Maliwanag was requesting then Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman for financial assistance of P7.5 million for typhoon victims in his town.
Maliwanag was supposedly endorsing MABCF to implement the program involving the purchase of farm inputs to increase the food production of the typhoon victims.
On Nov. 16, 2009, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the funding assistance program was signed by Maliwanag, Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Narciso Nieto and MABCF president Ronald Lim.
The three-page MOA carried a stamped note “DAR Budget Division-OBLIGATED” with handwritten date 12/3/09, accounting code 876 and amount 7,500,000.” A separate document carried a notarization made by one Atty. Mark Oliveros in Taguig City on the same date.
Two other documents were also signed on Jan. 18, 2010.
The first carried the delivery report from MABCF to the Candelaria local government. One Grace Bangayan of MABCF and Maliwanag of LGU signed the delivery dated Jan. 18, 2010. The project was identified as “Disaster Advancement Scheme” in the delivery report. The document pertained to the delivery of “193 sets of agri equipment.”
The second document, a “certificate of acceptance,” which was purportedly signed by Maliwanag and Lim, certified that the local government had accepted 193 sets of agricultural equipment.
In another document, an “inspection report,” the agricultural equipment were itemized as “sealed fresh seeds, planting tools, lightweight sprayers and farming implements” with a unit cost of P38,537. This report, signed by Lim, carried the address of MABCF—Blk 2, Lot 2 AFPOVAI Phase 1, Diego Silang Ave., Western Bicutan, Taguig City.
Another document was the “report of disbursement” signed by Lim, Maliwanag and one Isabelo San Miguel as company bookkeeper.
Maliwanag also purportedly issued a “certificate of project completion” dated Jan. 25, 2010.
“All documents about the supposed DAR funding assistance to Candelaria carried my fake signatures. I swear to God, they were all forgeries,” Maliwanag said.
He also denied a report in the Inquirer on Tuesday that Candelaria received a P10-million assistance from Malampaya, which was supposedly paid on Feb. 1, 2010.
“The local government of Candelaria during that time has no project or program or whatever that was funded from Malampaya,” Maliwanag said.
Candelaria belongs to the second district of Quezon. During the period covered by the supposed DAR funding assistance, the district’s representative was Proceso Alcala, the current agriculture secretary.