Napoles’ ex-NGO operator now a congresswoman
DAVAO CITY—An alleged operator of a bogus nongovernment organization (NGO) identified with Janet Lim-Napoles regularly came to Batasan Hills on a Nissan Patrol with siren and blinkers that sported Plate No. 8, according to a former Central Mindanao lawmaker who has since turned to farming.
But Nancy Catamco was not even a member of Congress in 2007 when they first met, said former Rep. Bernardo Piñol Jr. of the second district of North Cotabato.
Catamco, now representing North Cotabato’s second district in the House of Representatives, was then allegedly closely identified with Aaron Foundation Inc., an NGO that would later figure in the fertilizer scam that rocked the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo following the 2004 presidential election.
“She’s the point person of Aaron Foundation Inc., which I know she owned,” Piñol said.
Catamco said she did not go to the House of Representatives in 2007 using a vehicle that sported plates No. 8 reserved for lawmakers.
She also denied direct links with Aaron, saying her association with the foundation, if any, was that the NGO was a client of Perzebros.
Catamco told the Inquirer that Perzebros, a company that she and her former husband owned, was a distributor of foliar fertilizer and Aaron bought merchandise from it.
She also acknowledged meeting Aaron’s president, Alfredo A. Ronquillo, once over strictly business matters.
Despite the partnership with Aaron, Catamco and Perzebros were not involved in any irregularity, including the fertilizer scam allegedly perpetrated by former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante, she said.
Catamco said Perzebros merely delivered fertilizers to Aaron and whatever anomaly Aaron was allegedly involved in, her company had nothing to do with it.
But Perzebros, Piñol said, had a very extensive operation alongside Aaron Foundation that even the likes of then Surigao Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. poured so much money in the foundation.
When the scam was finally uncovered, the foundation amassed a total of P525 million, with Pichay emerging as the top contributor with some P162 million, according to a report released by the Commission on Audit last month.
Former Speaker Prospero Nograles gave Aaron Foundation about P60 million.
Former Cibac Rep. Joel Villanueva, who now heads the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), handed over a total of P9.7 million to Aaron Foundation. Tesda was also named as among “recipients” of pork barrel coursed through Napoles.
Earlier, Pichay said he never had any dealings with Napoles’ NGOs to which his PDAF was allegedly channeled. He said his only dealing with Napoles was to agree to invest in Asia Star Power Resources Corp. for power generation projects in Mindanao.
Piñol said Catamco could even be considered “one of the biggest fake NGO operators, who amassed mounting wealth” under the pork barrel scam.
Cable TV firm
He said if Catamco was denying any misuse of public funds, she should explain the amount of money Perzebros made because she was able to buy properties, including a cable TV company in Kidapawan City.
Piñol said Catamco should be investigated to find out if she paid taxes out of the large sums she made from her dealings with lawmakers.
He said he knew one transaction firsthand because he “was waylaid by this sweet-talking and snooty operator of a bogus NGO that (I) entrusted (my) first PDAF in 2007 worth P5 million to this person, who uses a car with a No. 8 congressional plate.”
PDAF stands for the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the official name of the pork barrel that funds pet projects of lawmakers.
Piñol said he had entrusted to Aaron Foundation his first PDAF, which would allegedly be sent to the Technology Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC).
“I noticed that they seem to have cut corners by hastily coming up with a list of beneficiaries… (I) ordered (my) staff and the NGO operator to be truthful with the listings even as (I) counter-checked with TLRC officials the status of (my) PDAF,” he said.
‘Rantings’ of loser
Catamco said Piñol’s rantings were part of politics as she twice defeated the former congressman when they faced off in 2010 and 2013.
Piñol said Catamco appeared to have gotten away with the scam because she “is now closely affiliated with the administration of President Aquino and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.”
“She has the temerity to pose with P-Noy in giant billboards announcing the slogan “daang matuwid (straight path),” the former member of the 14th Congress said.
After the P5-million PDAF transaction, Piñol said Catamco again approached and asked him if she could handle his second PDAF worth P10 million. But “sensing anomaly, (I) outrightly denied the NGO offer,” he said.
But why did many lawmakers deal with Catamco?
Strutted with confidence
Piñol said Catamco “strutted with confidence in the halls (of the Batasan) and even inside the offices of ranking members of the House,” which boosted her credibility in some ways.
He said Catamco and those belonging to other fake NGOs also targeted “in particular neophyte members of the House and would offer their services by means of quick release of PDAF, with less hassle.”
“And the deals are being offered anywhere—at the airport pre-departure area, at hotel coffee shops, at our offices in Congress, at the lounge, at the session hall lobby, or right at the exit/entrance of the plenary,” Piñol said.
He said he was once driven home to Fairview by Catamco’s driver.
Piñol added that fake NGO operators—such as the one he had dealt with—would even guide neophyte congressmen on “how to (commit) corrupt(ion) in the government.”
He said that on Sept. 24, 2008, he read newspaper accounts of Aaron Foundation getting embroiled in the Joc-joc Bolante fertilizer scandal.
Taking his lessons from Catamco’s alleged scam, Piñol said he later coursed his PDAF through credible agencies like the Department of Agriculture, the Tesda and the Land Bank of the Philippines.