MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III has ordered Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to respond to an allegation that his office had served as a conduit for the funneling of some P90 million in pork barrel funds to bogus non-government organizations during the last Congress.
The amount consisted of 11 pet projects of eight House members who, according to a whistleblower, tapped a bogus NGO allegedly put up by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles to carry out the scheme.
At a briefing in the Palace, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that Alcala was ready to answer new claims by whistleblower Merlina Suñas that the Department of Agriculture had been involved in the alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allotments of several lawmakers.
The Palace is confident that Alcala can exonerate himself since he is the first Cabinet member of the present administration to be dragged into the pork barrel scam.
Lacierda confirmed that Aquino and Alcala met early this week following a report by the Inquirer that the Department of Agriculture had a pivotal role in the release of the PDAF of the eight lawmakers.
“It has been reported in the (Inquirer) that he met President Aquino (on Wednesday). With regards to what’s coming out in the Inquirer, we will ask Secretary (Proceso) Alcala about that,” said Lacierda.
“Secretary Alcala is ready to respond to all these allegations, so that’s not a problem for us. If there are new claims, Secretary Alcala will respond to them,” Lacierda added.
He said he expected Alcala to have “additional explanation” for every new allegation hurled at him by any whistleblower.
Asked if a revamp at the agriculture department was in the offing to rid the agency of corrupt practices, Lacierda said: “We will leave it with the respective Cabinet secretaries on what to do. So we will rely on the judgment of the Cabinet secretaries.”