Senate minority says gov’t agencies should have screened NGOsBy Norman Bordadora |Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Members of the Senate minority lament what they call the non-compliance with the law of government agencies in overseeing projects funded by the congressional pork barrel—a lapse that they said has resulted in opposition members getting “pilloried and scorned by the media and by the public.”
In a statement, the Senate minority led by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said the current general appropriations act and those of previous years provided for money from the Priority Development Assistance Fund to be channelled to non-governmental organizations.
The statement issued on Wednesday last week also said that the national budget provisions tasked government agencies and local government units with ensuring that the NGOs chosen by the legislators to handle the billions of pesos in pork barrel funds were legitimate.
“Precisely, the provisions of the budget law have already established the parameters within which our PDAF must be implemented by the concerned government agencies. Unfortunately, however, these guidelines and standards were evidently not followed,” the minority said.
“It is even more unfortunate that members of the Senate minority group have been pilloried and scorned by the media and by the public for this lapse in the implementation of the law,” it added.
The Senate minority is made up of Minority Leader Enrile, Deputy Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Senator Gregorio Honasan, Senator JV Ejercito and Senator Nancy Binay.
Enrile, Estrada and Honasan have figured in the Commission on Audit report presented by COA chair Grace Pulido-Tan to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee two weeks ago.
Along with Senator Ramon Revilla, Jr., the three were said to have endorsed their PDAF entitlements to dubious NGOs, including those of alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
The minority cited the COA report that said, “NGOs are not included among the IAs [implementing agencies] of PDAF as identified in the GAA, hence, such transfers are without legal basis.”
The Senate minority group, however, wished to point out that the COA Report was wrong.
“General Appropriations Acts of previous years and even the GAA of the current year contain provisions allowing for the transfer of funds to civil society organizations, non-government organizations, and people’s organizations, subject to certain conditions,” the minority said.
It said the practice of allowing NGOs to participate in the implementation of government projects was first introduced in 2007, when a special provision in the budget of the Department of Education was inserted to “encourage the participation of non-government organizations (NGOs) in the construction of school buildings….”
The minority also cited the 2009 GAA that said, “The government agency and local government units shall ensure that the non-government organizations and people’s organizations that they deal with are legitimate.”
It added that 2013 GAA even required the liquidation of at least 70 percent of the latest fund transfer availed of by the NGOs, before additional fund transfers are made.
“The above-mentioned provisions clearly support our stand that: first, the transfer of funds to NGOs does have legal basis; and second, that it is not the responsibility of the legislators to ascertain the legitimacy of the NGOs which the IAs work with in the implementation of our projects,” the minority said.
“That burden falls on the IAs and the local government units concerned as provided by law,” it added.