Sotto shows proof: letters from mayorsBy Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Belying claims that no requests were made for the pork barrel fund his office had released, Sen. Tito Sotto on Monday released copies of letters purportedly showing that the mayors of Teresa and Tanay towns in Rizal asked his office for “financial assistance” to combat dengue in their areas in 2011 and 2012.
Sotto also attached a copy of a separate letter sent by Tanay Mayor Rafael Tanjuatco apologizing for the supposedly erroneous report published in the Inquirer Monday that his town did not ask for Sotto’s priority development assistance fund (PDAF) for its antidengue campaign.
The senator said a similar letter of apology from Teresa Mayor Rodel de la Cruz was forthcoming.
Sotto’s office initially provided via e-mail copies of the letters bearing the letterheads of the local government units of the two towns signed by their respective mayors requesting antidengue materials.
“I expect a correction from the PDI with the same prominence as that given the false report,” he said.
In the letter dated Nov. 22, 2011, De la Cruz asked Sotto’s office for P3 million for “various medicines, probiotics and vitamins” needed to prevent the spread of dengue in Teresa.
The Teresa mayor said the rainy season usually brought “deadly diseases” and that he needed the money to purchase probiotics that would prevent mosquitoes from hatching and developing dengue-carrying virus.
In a report attributed to municipal authorities, the Inquirer said Monday that Sotto’s office provided Teresa town P1.5 million on May 15, 2012, from his PDAF that was used to buy garbage deodorizer although there was no such request for it.
The authorities said that 2,140 liters of the inoculant Effective Microwealth Probiotic (EMP) from Innsbruck International Trading remained unused.
The second request letter to Sotto’s office carried the letterhead of Tanay town in Rizal. It was dated Feb. 14, 2012, and bore the signature of Mayor Tanjuatco.
It asked Sotto’s office for P5 million for the “prevention and control of dengue and other diseases by providing the people the necessary preventive mechanisms … for protection especially probiotics (that do) not allow mosquito eggs and larvae to hatch and become dengue-carrying mosquitoes.”
Tanjuatco’s letter also informed Sotto’s office that his town conducts year-round medical missions, adding that the materials that the senator would provide through his PDAF would benefit the 19 barangays (villages).
Later Monday, Sotto sent a copy of a second letter from Tanjuatco, this time apologizing to the senator for the report that his town did not request P5 million for “probiotics or medicines for medical mission.”
No more dengue
“Please accept our apologies for such error in the report. We acknowledge the fact that Tanay indeed requested for funding assistance from your good office for the prevention and control of dengue thru a letter dated Feb 14, 2012,” Tanjuatco’s letter read.
“However, when we were advised of the fund release on July 12, 2012, our municipal health office informed us of an improvement in the local dengue situation such that the necessity for antidengue measures, particularly the procurement of probiotics, is no longer of critical importance,” the
Tanjuatco said that for this reason, the local government informed Sotto’s office of its decision “to return to the National Treasury the whole amount of P5 million with special allotment release order BMB-612 TOOOOOO 753, with the request that the amount be instead allocated for the repair of farm-to-market roads damaged by (the) ‘habagat.’”
Tanjuatco added that he was “not aware who were the town officials who reportedly were interviewed by (the Inquirer) on the subject.”
“The truth is my best defense,” Sotto said in a phone interview upon receipt of Tanjuatco’s second letter.
He also reiterated his previous statement that his office usually accommodated requests for his PDAF.
“Once the funds leave the (Department of Budget and Management), that is already considered executive action and my office no longer has control over the bidding process,” he explained.
“Now if the towns that requested the materials wasted these, if these were not used well, they would no longer get anything in the future,” said Sotto who, like other senators, gets P200 million in PDAF annually.
Sotto is not the first senator linked to the allegedly irregular use of PDAF by Innsbruck International Trading, which could no longer be located in its addresses.
Previous reports said Innsbruck received from Sen. Lito Lapid P20 million from his PDAF for garbage deodorizer that supposedly went to three towns in Rizal and a town in Quezon province.
However, the pest control company that supplied the chemical mixture for an antidengue program no longer operated from the business address it gave even before it entered into contracts with at least four local government units (LGUs).
Each of the LGUs—Teresa, Baras and Pililia in Rizal and Polillo in Quezon—allegedly got P5 million each from Lapid’s PDAF.
Apart from Sotto and Lapid, Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Gregorio Honasan II also figured in the news after their PDAF were allegedly pocketed by an intricate network of nongovernment organizations instead of being used for government projects.