COA: LGUs, barangays also used as pork conduitsBy Gil C. Cabacungan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Senators and representatives also used provincial capitols, and city and barangay halls as conduits in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam apart from fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs), and certain agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporations.
At least P1.289 billion in the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) of senators and representatives was released through nine cities, six provinces and 109 barangays in violation of state procurement rules, according to the recent Commission on Audit (COA) report on the PDAF released between 2007 and 2009.
The PDAF is the official name of the pork barrel—taxpayer money that finances pet projects of lawmakers.
Eighty-two percent of the transactions were supported by documents that the COA considered “questionable,” while the remaining 18 percent or P234.213 million had no disbursement vouchers at all.
The funds, funneled through the local government units (LGUs), were used for their own expenses (purchases, repairs and rentals), dole outs (educational, medical and burial) and office bills of their respective representatives.
The COA said the LGUs did not conduct any bidding, had spurious lists of beneficiaries or none at all, and their equipment rentals and road contracts had no specific work plans. In addition, there were no work programs or event schedules to justify the use of taxpayer money.
These anomalies were akin to the irregularities that tainted the pork barrel released to fake NGOs through implementing agencies such as the Department of Agriculture (and its corporate arms) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Mandaluyong City had the most “deficiencies noted” among the LGUs covered in the sample audit of the COA, with P426.527 million worth of flawed transactions.
The amount represented the pork of its incumbent and former representatives as well as that of other lawmakers—Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales Jr. (P256.381 million), Speaker Prospero Nograles (P47.325 million), Ang Waray Rep. Florencio G. Noel (P23.944 million) and former Mandaluyong Rep. Benjamin C. Abalos Jr. (P19.999 million).
The transactions included P97.43 million for groceries for meetings and fireworks for events; P50 million for cleaning and garden supplies, and pest control; and P6.315 million for medals and trophies for sports activities.
The COA doubted the existence of most of Mandaluyong’s suppliers that handled more than half of the deals.
The agency said close to P30 million of the deals were denied outright by 28 suppliers, including a “pakyaw” contractor who was supposed to have been paid P5.117 million to clean the city’s estero (creek).
“The confirmation letter for Mr. Roberto Reyes, a pakyaw contractor, was delivered to his address but was not received by his spouse. The spouse, in her letter to the audit team, declared that Mr. Roberto Reyes is not a contractor, but works in Camella Homes as a helper of the contractor and did not enter into any contract with the city government,” the COA audit team said.
P184M for Taguig
The second biggest amount was accounted for by Taguig City and three of its barangays with P184.175 million from the pork barrel of then Taguig Rep. Henry Dueñas Jr. (P50.449 million), Nograles (P24.98 million), and Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago (P17.355 million), Juan Ponce Enrile (P4.995 million), Alan Peter Cayetano (P2.698 million) and Juan Flavier (P998,000).
The COA considered defective practically all these transactions, including Dueñas’ purchase of “videoke” machines, groceries, multicab, hardware supply, sporting goods, firearms and handcuffs.
The agency also questioned Cayetano’s allocation to three barangays in Taguig—P750,000 for uniforms for councilors, hand-held radios and a mini-ambulance through Barangay Ligid; P748,000 for house numbering plates, a fire-buster and motorcycle with sidecar through Barangay Calzada; and P1.2 million for a motorcycle with sidecar and ambulance through Barangay Maharlika.
The COA said the uniforms for councilors and the motorcycle with sidecar (which was booked at P100,000 in Calzada and P550,000 in Maharlika) were not eligible for pork funding.
P151M for Las Piñas
The third biggest amount was for Las Piñas City with P150.507 million coming from the pork of the couple then Sen. Manny Villar and Rep. Cynthia Villar.
The COA noted that five entities or individuals who received P96.866 million from the Villars’ pork did not submit vouchers—San Ildefenso, Bulacan; Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, Las Piñas Lions Club Inc., Maria Criselda Celon and Wendell Esteban.
P130M for Tabaco
The fourth biggest pork allocation was the P129.719 million earmarked by then Rep. Edcel Lagman Jr. for Tabaco City.
The COA said no vouchers were provided for these transactions while there was no posting or publication for the bidding of P118.13 million worth of roads, buildings, markets and canals bankrolled by Lagman’s pork.
The rest of the LGUs that had irregularities in the use of pork were Davao Oriental with P112.538 million (from Rep. Thelma Z. Almario, Nelson Dayanghirang and Nograles); Quezon City with P72.62 million (from Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Enrile, Francisco Pangilinan and Ramon Magsaysay Jr.; and Representatives Vincent Crisologo, Mary Ann Susano, Matias Defensor Jr. and Lagman).
Manila with P50.352 million (from Representatives Benjamin Asilo, Theresa Bonoan-David, Amado Bagatsing and Monica-Louise Prieto-Teodoro, and Senators Lito Lapid and Migz Zubiri); Iriga City with P44.558 million (from Representatives Felix R. Alfelor Jr. and Mariano U. Piamonte Jr., and Senator Zubiri); Tarlac with P28.235 million (Senator Santiago and Rep. Jose V. Yap).
Nueva Ecija with P23.247 million (from Representatives Czarina D. Umali and Joseph Gilbert Violago); Compostela Valley with P14.158 million (from Nograles); Panabo City with P1.99 million (from Rep. Antonio F. Lagdameo Jr.) and Bataan with P722,000 (Rep. Albert Garcia).
One of the main recommendations of the COA was for lawmakers to limit the project coverage of pork to their congressional districts.