Davao lawmaker earmarked P34M of his pork to gov’t firm tied to graft
Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab earmarked P34 million of his pork barrel in 2009 and 2010 for National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC), one of the state firms linked to the pork barrel scam and which President Aquino is now planning to abolish.
A Department of Budget and Management (DBM) report showed that of the total amount in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) that Ungab shelled out for NLDC, P12 million was released in 2009 and an additional P7 million and P15 million in 2010.
The report did not specify the particular place or group of beneficiaries that benefited from the amount, except that it was for “financial assistance to livelihood programs and projects in the third district.”
Ungab, who has been closely identified with the administration’s Liberal Party and who ran in Davao City unopposed in the last elections, also shelled out a total of P18 million for the Department of Agriculture, of which P8 million was released in 2011 and P10 million in 2013.
The DBM report also showed some P7 million of Ungab’s PDAF earmarked for the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos in 2012 for livelihood programs such as food processing, wellness, organic farming and handicrafts in the city’s third district.
President Aquino earlier tasked the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel with studying the possible abolition of government agencies linked to the scam, among them, NLDC, which is under Land Bank of the Philippines.
The DBM report showed a total of P224.9 million in PDAF that Ungab released to numerous projects from 2009 to 2013, which included assistance to indigent patients at Southern Philippines Medical Center, the city social services and development office, and road and bridge infrastructure coursed through the Department of Public Works and Highways.
When Ungab’s name was earlier linked to the pork barrel scam, one of his staff, Jonal Palu Nable, said they were not worried at all because “Ungab’s assistance had reached the poor in far-flung barangays (villages) of the third district.”
But Nable, who was still unaware of the reports coming out of the media in Manila at the time, said Ungab’s office was coordinating with a contact person named Atan from the Kaupdan para sa Mag-uuma Foundation for the distribution of the agricultural kit package in far-flung barangays in the third district.
Kaupdan was among the bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) linked to Janet Lim-Napoles.
Ungab’s staff said Kaupdan took care of buying the items for distribution, which included packets of foliar fertilizers, a sprayer and assorted farm tools distributed in the 82 barangays of the city’s third district.
The distribution of the agricultural package reached its peak on March 8, curiously timed before the start of the campaign period of the 2013 elections. Although Ungab ran unopposed in the last elections, he supported the political candidates of an entrenched local political party in Davao.
Nable said he did not know the worth of each item that Ungab’s office distributed to farmers because, he said, Kaupdan took care of buying the items.
Ungab, however, told the Inquirer he did not know about the existence of this NGO.
In Pangasinan, Rosendo So, chair of the party-list group Abono, confirmed that
P3 million from the group’s pork barrel allocation went to Philippine Forest Corp. (Philforest) and was used to fund a reforestation and tree-planting project in San Nicolas town.
Philforest is one of five agencies that Malacañang is planning to abolish after government audit reports showed that it was used by fake NGOs to access the PDAF allocations of lawmakers.
Documents showed that in 2011, Abono, through Rep. Robert Raymund Estrella, gave P3 million to Philforest, the corporate arm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
But So, on Monday, said the project was “fully downloaded” to the San Nicolas local government through Philforest.
“This is because the fund cannot go directly to local governments but through proper channels. For instance, if the project is public works, it passes through the Department of Public Works and Highways. If it is an agriculture project, it passes through the agriculture agency,” he said.
So said it was up to the agency concerned to oversee the project’s implementation.
San Nicolas Mayor Leoncio Saldivar III said the town government had sent a request to Abono to fund the town’s tree-planting project that was implemented from 2011 to 2012. He said the San Nicolas government oversaw the project—from the bidding to distribution of seedlings to beneficiaries.
The town, he said, had partnered with Maharlika Liti Foundation, which was chosen by Philforest to help in the project’s implementation.
“We distributed the fruit-tree seedlings to schools and barangay councils [and they received] up to 300 seedlings each, depending on the request. The tree-planting was done [in different villages in the town],” Saldivar told the Inquirer by telephone on Monday.
“We followed the process for project implementation,” he said.
Saldivar, however, said he could not immediately recall who supplied the seedlings used in the project.
Ponciano Onia, Abono president, said his party-list group’s other projects funded by its PDAF included the construction of farm-to-market roads, school buildings, multipurpose pavements, hybrid rice seed production and the production of fingerlings done through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
In Cebu City, two of those linked to the alleged misuse of their pork barrel, a former Cebu congressman and an incumbent representative from Northern Samar, denied they were involved in any wrongdoing.
Former Cebu sixth district Rep. Ramon “Red” Durano VI, the incumbent vice mayor of Danao City, maintained that his role in the projects financed by his PDAF was only to identify the project and the implementing agency.
According to the Commission on Audit (COA), P9 million of Durano’s PDAF was coursed through Philforest.
“The question should be addressed to Philforest as the implementing agency. We only identify the project or program and the implementing agency,” Durano said in a phone interview on Monday.
He said the “Saros (special allotment release orders) and NCAs (notices of cash allocation) were addressed to them so they are in charge of disbursing the funding to the NGOs.”
Durano noted that the funding would not have been released without the supervision and evaluation of Philforest.
“The validators of the projects also came from Philforest, ensuring that the projects were successfully implemented in our district,” he said.
On the other hand, Northern Samar second district Rep. Emil Ong said he did not find anything wrong when he gave about P13 million of his pork barrel to Philforest.
In a brief statement, Ong said the project, planting cacao and mahogany, was not tainted with irregularity.
“We have videos, documents and photos to prove that,” he said in a phone interview.—Reports from Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Carmel Loise Matus and Joey Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas; and Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao