TORIL, Davao City, Philippines— Except for a bead-making project for 50 persons launched here in March, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) said it did not know of any other project that used the P7-million pork barrel fund that Rep. Isidro Ungab reportedly coursed through the agency.
“I only learned about the P7 million from the media,” Norhaida Lumaan, officer-in-charge of NCMF Davao, said.
But while knowing of the existence of the bead-making project in Barangay Binugao here, Lumaan denied the local NCMF office was involved in its implementation.
Ungab, she said, merely invited her to attend the launching of the bead-making project in March. Beyond her attendance, her office had no more involvement in the project, Lumaan added.
“I want to make it clear that we never received any money, and that our office was never involved,” she said.
A barangay official in Binugao, who also attended the launching, said she was puzzled by the fact that the project supposed to be undertaken by the NCMF had hardly any Muslim beneficiary present.
“Most of those who received the bead kits in Barangay Binugao were Christians, I knew the Muslims in the area,” Flora Salandron, a barangay councilor, said.
Salandron also said except for “a kit, containing some tools used in making beads,” the beneficiaries got no other inputs during the launching of the project.
“Perhaps, the kit will give them an idea how to make beads but it was not even enough to start their own bead-making business because the bead materials were not enough,” she said.
Salandron said it was the first and last bead-making project that was launched in the village.
“Basta ang beads, kausa lang nahitabo (It happened only once), and it was only good for 50 people,” she said.
But Salandron admitted that in August, Ungab also launched a Bigasan (rice store) project for 50 women in their barangay but only 26 people were able to attend. Under the project, the proponents were given a total of P300,000 in “rolling capital to set up a rice store” in the village.
A report by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which showed a breakdown of Ungab’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) projects, showed that the third district lawmaker gave P7 million to the NCMF in 2012 for varied projects, including food processing, wellness programs, organic farming and handicrafts.
Lumaan said this must have been coursed through the NCMF national office because people from their central office frequently traveled here for Ungab’s projects.
Ungab’s staff, Jonas Palu Nable, begged off when asked about the list of beneficiaries of Ungab’s projects.
Nable said they already sent all the documents to the lawmaker’s office in Batasan.
He instead asked the Philippine Daily Inquirer to direct questions and requests regarding the project to the NCMF central office “because they are in charge with the monitoring of his projects.”
Salandron said P7 million could have spelled a lot of difference for the people of Binugao if it was spent on infrastructure.
“Our barangay roads had never been cemented in the last two decades, they have potholes; and 400 households in Toril do not have access to running water because they are not yet covered by the Davao City Water District (DCWD),” she said. “Just imagine what those funds could have done to these households.”
She said the maintenance of the barangay roads fell under the jurisdiction of the City Engineers’ Office but for lack of local funds, the local government usually relied on the pork barrel fund of congressmen to have these roads cemented.
“Even when we ask the City Engineer’s to have the road paved or graded to temporarily get rid of potholes, we still had to court and earn the friendship of the backhoe operators to have our barangays prioritized,” she said.