ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Beneficiaries of the P17 million in pork barrel funds that former Representative Erico Basilio Fabian of Zamboanga City’s second congressional district funnelled to the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos got a bagful of worms each in 2012.
But before they were handed one-kilogram bags of earthworms, they were supposedly trained in vermiculture and vermicomposting.
According to the Department of Budget and Management, Fabian released the amount to the NCMF in three tranches: September 7, 2012 (P6 million), September 7, 2012 (P5 million) and April 23, 2012 (P6 million).
NCMF director Mehol Sadain confirmed to the Inquirer that the commission had indeed received the money from Fabian.
“He sent official letters identifying two organizations that would implement his projects. We are now validating and authenticating the documents submitted to us and have contacted the organizations concerned for further clarification,” Sadain said. He identified one of the NGOs as BL Touch.
Dennison Abidin, the acting Regional Director of NCMF in Zamboanga City, said he was unaware that commission had received funds from Fabian’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAFP because “the transaction was between Congressman Fabian and representatives from our national office.”
Abidin said he had not heard of an NGO called BL Touch but he confirmed that the NCMF had indeed conducted training for farmers in Barangay Sangali here.
Diosdado Palacat, the city’s agriculturist, said he knew nothing either about BL Touch. But he said his office received a call from Fabian’s staff last year about the conduct of an organic farming seminar.
“I was directed to prepare farmers for training. We invited about 2,000 farmers from the 2nd District under Fabian and we had two organic farming training (sessions) on vermiculture and vermicomposting,” Palacat said.
He said the 2,000 farmer-trainees went home after the activity “with a bag of worms.”
“A kilo of bag of vermi worms cost about P700 then,” Palacat said.
Fabian insisted that the use of his pork barrel allotments was legitimate.
Sadain said NCMF never got money from then Representative Ma. Isabelle Climaco in 2012. But research by the Inquirer showed that while Climaco caused the release of some P8 million, it was actually rerouted to a health facility.