Nueva Ecija lawmakers bare anomalies in IRA fundsBy Karen Boncocan
MANILA, Philippines – All eyes are on the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, but former and incumbent lawmakers from Nueva Ecija on Thursday said they do not rule out the possible involvement of local government units in similar racket.
They suspect that not only the lawmakers’ pork barrel funds had been misused but also the LGU’s Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA).
Former Nueva Ecija Representative Rodolfo Antonino revealed what he felt could be an “IRA scam” as compared to the alleged “pork barrel” scam which was the topic of a series of reports by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Citing annual audit reports from municipalities of San Antonio and San Leonardo in Nueva Ecija, the former legislator said that it appeared that the LGUs themselves made out millions of its funds to questionable nongovernment organizations.
“The pork barrel may identify what legislators are entitled to or being given for their constituents but don’t forget that the IRA is also a form of pork barrel set aside for the municipalities,” he said.
Antonino said an annual audit report from the municipality of San Leonardo in 2011 showed P50 million worth of funds from its IRA went to dubious organizations.
He said that these transactions allegedly happened during the time of Mayor Elan Nagano.
“There were no vouchers; no official receipts,” he said.
Similar to this was an instance of an alleged scam committed by the same LGU involving the P5 million worth of PDAF from Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.
The amount was also made to Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation, but the transaction also had no supporting documents, said Antonino.
Pork barrel funds from several unidentified senators suffered the same fate in the municipality of San Antonio.
Antonino produced a copy of an annual report from the municipality which showed P70 million had been funneled into the Countywide Agri and Rural Eco Development Foundation (CARED) and Ginintuang Alay Magsasaka Foundation, while P20 million had been channeled into Kaupdanan Mangunguma Foundation Incorporated (KPMFI).
This P90 million came from the pork barrel of several unidentified senators and remained “unliquidated by the local government unit,” he said.
“Said funds were received by the LGU through the initiative of different senators from their Priority Development Assistance Fund, but were disbursed to NGOs/POs without complete supporting documents,” the report from the Commission on Audit (COA) told San Antonio Mayor Arvin Salonga.
CARED and Ginintuang Alay Magsasaka Foundation were both identified as bogus NGOs in earlier reports on the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Antonino said that they were however curious about KPMFI as they were “unable to find information about it anywhere.”
The audit report showed that many transactions with the NGOs were “invalid” as they had no supporting documents.
“These funds are given to the municipalities; they in turn release them to NGOs. It is the municipalities which identify the NGOs. This makes it very hard-pressed for them to say that they aren’t involved as they are the ones who hand out the funds,” Antonino said.
“This possible IRA scam issue should be taken seriously. The amounts may not be as much as those in the pork barrel scam but this may be happening all over the country,” he said.
The former Nueva Ecija lawmaker said he feared that the abuse of the IRA was being done at a “bigger scale nationwide.”
Antonino’s daughter, incumbent Nueva Ecija Representative Magnolia Antonino-Nadres, said she would file a resolution urging the House of Representatives to look into the audit reports’ findings.
“These may be smaller amounts but P10 billion may just be a pittance given the potential nationwide abuse of these IRA funds,” she said.