PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—One of the dummy nongovernment organizations (NGOs) linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles siphoned off some P10 million from the Malampaya Fund to supposed beneficiaries in Roxas town in northern Palawan province but delivered only kangkong (water spinach) seeds, according to the municipal agriculture officer.
“All we got were worthless kangkong seeds we don’t even need,” Edgar Padul, who heads the municipal agriculture office, told the Inquirer on Thursday.
The Malampaya Fund represents royalties that the national government collects from the Malampaya gas project in Palawan. Managed by the Department of Finance, it is primarily meant for energy-related projects, but it could also be used for other purposes approved by the President, including assistance to agrarian reform beneficiaries.
The municipal agriculture office of Roxas was listed as a beneficiary of Karangyaan Para sa Magsasaka Foundation, one of Napoles’ dummy NGOs which received the fund.
“I never heard of that NGO and had not seen any project document or memorandum of agreement covering that fund,” Padul said.
Hinting of a collusion between local government officials and the NGO of Napoles, Padul called for an independent investigation of how the P10 million allocated to the municipality was spent.
He said he was compelled to speak out because farmers from Roxas had begun asking him how the amount was spent.
“I serve three churches every Sunday and I don’t want my name tarnished. Even my own mother confronted me about it. It’s better that they conduct an audit of that fund,” Padul said on the phone on Thursday.
“We are being dragged into this mess when we have nothing to do with it,” he said.
Padul said the municipality conducted a bidding in 2010 for the purchase of P10 million worth of seeds despite his department’s objection and the nonparticipation of his office as the mandated agency to implement agriculture-related projects in Roxas.
“I was not involved. My office was not involved in that project. They (municipality) did not want us to participate in that project,” he said.
He said he first learned about the P10-million fund when it was mentioned to him by then Roxas Mayor Dennis Sabando sometime in 2010.
“I thought he (Mayor Sabando) was just kidding me that we were going to receive P10 million to buy vegetable seeds,” he said.
He recalled that during one of the meetings about the project headed by the municipal planning officer, he objected to the money being used for seeds, “but they did not want to involve us.”
In a separate interview conducted by Radio Mindanao Network-Palawan, municipal treasurer Elsa Pedres said the money was downloaded to the municipal government’s bank account in 2010.
No Alvarez pork
However, she could not recall if it came from the Department of Agriculture or was part of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, of then first district Rep. Antonio Alvarez.
The former aide of Alvarez claimed none of his PDAF was spent on a P10-million seed fund in Roxas.
“We were also not aware such a project existed,” lawyer Jeff Sahagun, former chief of staff of Alvarez, told the Inquirer.
Alvarez has been replaced by his son, Franz, as representative of the district. Antonio is also the brother of incumbent Palawan Gov. Jose Alvarez.
Pedres said that as treasurer of the municipality, she was not asked to make a report on how the money was spent. “I don’t know about the accounting office if they were made to write a report, but in my case I was not asked to do a report,” she said.
Incumbent Roxas Vice Mayor Alfredo Enojas Jr. said in a separate radio interview that the municipal council would soon hold an inquiry into the funds in its regular session.