P7M in pork spent on kits for beads
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 anymore of any project, or had been involved in any, using P7 million in public funds credited to the pork barrel of Rep. Isidro Ungab, a key Liberal Party member.
“I only learned about the P7 million from the media,” said Norhaida Lumaan, officer in charge of NCMF Davao.
But even if she knew about the existence of the bead-making project in Barangay Binugao here, Lumaan denied that 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 what puzzled her was while the project was supposedly undertaken by the NCMF, there was hardly any Muslim beneficiary present when it was launched.
“Most of those who received the bead kits in Barangay Binugao were Christians. I know the Muslims in the area,” said Flora Salandron, a village councilor.
Salandron also said except for “a kit, containing some tools used in making beads,” the beneficiaries got no other material at the project launch.
“Perhaps, the kit will give them an idea on how to make beads but it was not even enough to start their own bead-making business because the bead materials are not enough,” she said.
Salandron said it was the first and last bead-making project that was launched in the village.
“The bead project was just launched once and it was good for only 50 people,” she said.
But Salandron admitted that in August, Ungab also launched a project, called Bigasan, for 50 women in their village but only 26 people attended. 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 pork or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), showed that the third district lawmaker gave P7 million to the NCMF in 2012 for various projects, including food processing, wellness programs, organic farming and handicraft making.
Lumaan said the funds must have gone through the NCMF national office because people from the NCMF central office frequently traveled here for Ungab’s projects.
Ungab’s staffer, Jonas Palu Nable, begged off when asked about the list of beneficiaries of Ungab’s projects.
Nable said Ungab’s office had already sent all the documents to the lawmaker’s office in Quezon City.
He instead asked the Inquirer to direct questions and requests regarding the project to the NCMF central office “because they are in charge with monitoring his (Ungab’s) 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 have never been cemented in the last two decades. They are ridden with 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,” she said. “Just imagine what those funds could have done to these households.”
She said the maintenance of village roads is the duty of the city engineers’ office but for lack of local funds, the local government usually relies on the pork barrel of congressmen to have these roads cemented.
“Even when we ask the city engineer to have the roads paved or graded to temporarily get rid of potholes, we still have to court and earn the friendship of the backhoe operators to have our villages prioritized,” she said. Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao
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