‘Way Kurat’ is right; DBM wrong on P3B pork barrelBy Gil C. Cabacungan, Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Tuesday said it made a “clerical error” in listing then Compostela Valley Rep. Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora as having received a whopping P3 billion in pork barrel funds in 2007.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. said the DBM made a mistake in including Zamora’s allocation of P500,000 from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in the same statement of allotment release order (Saro) it issued for the P3-billion project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“Representative Zamora’s allocation was for a multipurpose building for Davao Hospital in Tagum City. It had the same Saro number (A-07-095396) as the P3 billion allocated for the DPWH’s road maintenance projects nationwide. It was a clerical error,” Abad said in a phone interview.
This was the reason the Commission on Audit (COA) special report on the pork barrel funds released from 2007 to 2009 showed that Zamora, currently Compostela Valley vice governor, exceeded his annual P70-million pork allocation by P3 billion, way ahead of 71 other lawmakers who also received an overflow of PDAF during the period.
For his part, former Sen. Edgardo Angara said he was concerned that his inclusion in the COA report might jeopardize his standing at the Canada-based Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (Gopac).
Per the COA special audit, the retired senator spent P81.55 million of his PDAF, and another P14.4 million from the same allocation, on two separate foundations identified with him between 2007 and 2009 alone.
Angara, Gopac’s first Asian chair who was elected just this year, said he would have some explaining to do when he attends the group’s executive board meeting in Ottawa next month.
“I’m confident that I can explain it, but whether from their point of view it’s acceptable, (that I cannot say),” he told the Inquirer in an interview on Monday afternoon.
Angara acknowledged that the standards set by the Gopac were “much higher because how can you have the moral ascendancy if you yourself are being accused by your agencies?”
During his term as a senator, he admitted getting a bigger allocation other than the P200 million in annual PDAF set aside for each member of the upper chamber.
Angara said the additional amounts were sourced from the lump sum budget controlled by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He recalled getting some P100 million for the improvement of the Baler town hall and plaza for its 400th anniversary in 2009. He also received between P60 and P70 million for establishing a school building in the province.
“The President has a lot of lump sum (budget),” he said in Filipino. “That’s why they attack the President because in effect, that’s the pork barrel of the President. That’s why we’re now itemizing (the budget). We don’t encourage any lump sum appropriation.”
Refusing to call the presidential allocation as pork barrel, Angara instead described it as an “earmark that was given to you by the administration, by the President.”
“There’s no extra funding that anyone in this country can get without the OK of the President—that’s how centralized we are,” he said, insisting that getting additional funding still depended on “performance” and required a “work program as well as a financial plan.”
No fly-by-night NGOs
Angara admitted using part of his PDAF to the NGOs Kalusugan ng Bata and Karunungan ng Bayan Inc. even if he was an incorporator of the groups.
He said he put up the organizations when he was agriculture secretary and the project had benefited some 30,000 schoolchildren aged 7 to 9 by the time they folded up toward the end of the Arroyo administration in 2010.
“If there’s any mistake, I should have removed my name there and got someone to take over because I was already a senator and the source of the funding would have come from my PDAF,” he said, referring to Kalusugan.
“But we can prove every single disbursement there and we can prove that this is not a fly-by-night, nonexistent, here-now-gone-tomorrow-type of NGO.”
Angara claimed that the same was true of his other existing organization, Karunungan, which handled a scholarship program.
“That is so easy to explain, explain all those activities,” he said, referring to the foundations in question. He cried foul that his groups were “lumped together” with other questionable NGOs, the type put up by Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
On the COA report, he said: “I’m not saying they were malicious. I think some of the auditors may be too young or inexperienced and under pressure to produce a report.”
Not a cent to Napoles
Former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said in an e-mail to the Inquirer:
“If at all, some pork barrel funds were released by the GMA administration or by any other administration, these did not pass through my hands. The funds must have been—as they are usually—sent through a duly identified government agency before they get to the beneficiaries. And certainly, I can vouch for the fact that none of my PDAF ever went to Napoles or to questionable groups.”
The former Senate minority leader pointed out that Arroyo “refused to release even the funds I had initiated as a senator for projects that were included in the annual appropriations act, like the Cagayan de Oro Convention Center.”
“The release and delivery of the funds went through auditing procedures as required by existing government rules over which I had no influence, supervision or control. Moreover, the beneficiaries know that my inflexible warning has always been that the pork barrel funds they get through the intercession of my office should go solely to the projects intended to benefit the people, and not a centavo should be diverted into the pockets of thieves—friends or no friends,” said Pimentel, who received P61.55 million in pork barrel funds from 2007 to 2009.
Parañaque City Rep. Roilo Golez said that the P113.7 million in pork money he received from 2007 to 2009 was a “restitution” of the PDAF that Arroyo previously withheld after he signed the impeach resolution against her in 2005.
“I believe the same is generally true for other members of the then minority that you listed,” said Golez who was an independent in the 14th Congress and only joined the Liberal Party in 2010.