CEBU CITY—Cleaning drainage systems. Disaster mitigation. Flood control.
Three Cebu politicians—two former congressmen and an incumbent one— listed these as among what they said were legitimate projects to defend the release of public funds through their pork barrel to Philippine Forest Corp. (Philforest), which a Commission on Audit (COA) report found to be highly irregular.
The COA report said the three Cebu politicians—former Representatives Eduardo Gullas and Ramon Durano VI and incumbent Rep. Gabriel Luis Quisumbing—gave millions of pesos of public funds to Philforest, which turned over the money to nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that the COA had tagged as highly questionable.
At least P9 million each through the pork of Gullas and Durano reached
Philforest, according to the COA. Aside from Philforest, P225,000 of public funds through the pork of Gullas went to the group Coprahan at Gulayan Foundation Inc. and P1.4 million to the Kabuhayan at Kalusugang Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc.
At least P900,000 of public funds through Quisumbing’s pork, the COA said, went to the Kabuhayan at Kalusugang Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc. and P750,000 to the Kasangga sa Magandang Bukas Foundation Inc.
Gullas said the groups that received public funds through his pork were legitimate and the projects were proper.
The P9 million that went to Philforest and was credited to his name, Gullas said, actually came from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and was requested by the municipal government of Minglanilla. Gullas endorsed the request.
The DAR released the funds directly to the Infinite Community Integrated Development Support Foundation, which distributed the money as “financial aid” to beneficiaries in the villages of Vito, Candulawan and Guindaruhan in Minglanilla town.
The distribution of the money, said Gullas, was witnessed by the DAR and Department of Agriculture (DA) representatives.
Durano admitted that public funds through his pork were released to Philforest for flood control, biodiesel production and disaster mitigation programs in his district.
“We organized seminars and training programs for our farmers’ associations, point-persons and officials of LGUs (local government units) in the district, distribution of training kits, site inspection, distribution of seedlings and planting of the seedlings,” Durano said in a statement.
“To ensure that our program was well carried out, we conducted meetings and asked for progress [reports] from LGUs,” he said.
Durano said representatives from the COA and Philforest had validated the pork projects.
Quisumbing admitted that the public funds released to Philforest through his pork were for livelihood projects implemented by the DA in the sixth district— Mandaue City, Consolacion and Cordova towns.
Years of existence
“Our livelihood program has been in existence for several years. As a matter of fact, we have several successful livelihood programs that have helped unemployment and underemployment,” he said.
Quisumbing said his documents were complete and he had a list of beneficiaries that were open for inspection by anyone and which would show the legitimacy of the projects.
The projects for Cordova and Consolacion towns involved the use of indigenous materials while that in Mandaue City involved cleaning the city’s drainage system, Quisumbing said.
The projects, said the congressman, have been fully implemented. He said, though, that he did not have a hand in choosing the NGO that would benefit from the project.