MANILA, Philippines — Senator Gregorio Honasan II said that he merely allocated his pork barrel funds in 2009 to Philippine Forest Corp. (PFC) as part of his contribution to the development of alternative energy fuel sources but the environment secretary was the one who chose the recipient non-government organization.
Honasan said on Tuesday that as chair of the Senate energy committee he was obliged to back up the government’s program to plant more jatropha plant as feedstock for biodiesel. Since allocations from priority development assistance fund (PDAF), had a shelf life of two years, Honasan explained the disbursements for PFC were released in 2011. “But I only endorsed the project, it was the environment secretary who named the specific NGO,” said Honasan in a phone interview.
In most cases involved in the pork barrel scam, the legislator identified not only the project but the NGO, which would receive his or her pork. Incumbent Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza was the DENR secretary in 2009 (he resigned in December of that year in preparation for his failed mayoral run in 2010)
Based on records obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the SARO (statement of allotment release order) of Honasan were issued on December 21, 2010 (P5 million for Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc.), February 9, 2011 (P50 million for Work Phil Foundation Inc.), August 5, 2011 (P40 million for Focus on Development Goals Foundation Inc. of FGDFI), and December 20, 2011 (P100 million for FGDFI). These transactions are part of the P428.5 million worth of pork released through PFC to what the Commission on Audit believed were questionable and allegedly fake NGOs under investigation by the Commission on Audit.
It is too soon to judge the program a “scam” because the projects are still being implemented, according to Honasan. “I think it’s less than 70 percent complete and the funds are released according to the rate of accomplishment. It’s not as if the money was released in one lump sum. The funds are only released with full documentation and full compliance,” said Honasan. “Legislators have very little control on these kind of projects, it is entirely up to the implementing agency and its chosen NGO.”
Honasan also denied having any social or business ties to retired Marine officer, “Jimmy” Napoles, husband of detained businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, believed to be the chief operator of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, and a fellow member of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM). Napoles was an active participant in the 1989 coup d’état, which Honasan led.
“How can I remember every single officer who was with me in 1986, `87, and `89? We are not buddies or business partners, we don’t have a social or business relationship,” said Honasan.