Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo practically gave then Budget Secretary Rolando G. Andaya Jr. a blank check to fund any project using the Malampaya Fund on the pretext of providing relief to provinces devastated by Tropical Storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” four years ago, the National Bureau of Investigation said.
This is the reason why, based on the documents obtained by the Inquirer from the Commission on Audit (COA), Andaya signed a total of 145 special allotment release orders (Saros) between Oct. 30 and December 2009 worth a total of P14.393 billion that was paid out of the government’s share of the oil and gas revenues off Palawan province.
This includes P62 million that Andaya, now a Camarines Sur representative, allocated to his own agency, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), through two Saros (G-09-09059 for P47 million and G-09060 for P15 million) on Dec. 17, 2009, both without any work program to indicate their relevance to the relief and rehabilitation efforts.
Presidential Decree No. 910 issued in 1976 mandates that revenue from Philippine oil sources be channeled to a “Special Fund to be used to finance energy resource development … and for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President.”
On Thursday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the NBI filed plunder charges against Arroyo and Andaya and 22 others for allegedly stealing P900 million from the Malampaya Fund coursed through the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and funneled to bogus foundations controlled by detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
In the summary complaint, acting NBI Director Medardo de Lemos blamed the “lack of specificity” in Executive Order No. 848, which empowered Arroyo to spend the Malampaya Fund for projects she desired.
De Lemos said this “resulted in almost discretionary, if not arbitrary, granting of implementing agency requests for millions of pesos in funds by the DBM without the submission of any agency work or development plan for the use of the fund whatsoever.”
De Lemos said: “The DBM was practically given blanket approval to fund any and all relief and rehabilitation projects at the mere request of any implementing agency without the need of any further approval from the President, even when no clear work plan is submitted by the implementing agency showing that the funds will actually be used for the purpose authorized by the President.”
He said Andaya also ignored two memos from then Budget Director Nora Oliveros who had cautioned against the release of the Saro and notice of cash allocation for P900 million because it lacked the required Presidential Agrarian Reform Communities resolution and rehabilitation plan backing the request and that it would exceed the agency’s budget allocation for 2009.
De Lemos said this was “not a matter of mere oversight or inadvertence on the part of DBM officials, particularly Andaya.”
The DOJ-NBI complaint claimed that the use of the Malampaya Fund was premeditated as Napoles had been tipped off of the DAR’s share in the windfall three months before Arroyo issued her EO and before Ondoy and later Pepeng ravaged central and northern Luzon.
Andaya himself requested on Oct. 8, 2009, the use of the Malampaya Fund—five days before Arroyo signed the EO and then Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita sent his letter of instructions for the fund’s use to Andaya.
Leniency of control
De Lemos said Andaya “was already assuming that the restrictions on the use of the (Malampaya Fund) will be lifted to accommodate liberalized access by the DBM, as may be provided by the President.”
“This leniency of control displayed by the President in the use of and access to an essentially presidential discretionary fund made the plunder of such fund either intentionally or through gross inexcusable negligence.
“The former case is made all the more credible in light of the fact that the recipient of the major share in kickbacks amounting to P243 million, coursed through Ruby Tuason, remains unknown,” De Lemos said.
Tuason is the wife of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo’s first cousin, the late Philippine Sports Commission Chair Carlos “Butch” Tuason.
Andaya denies wrongdoing
Andaya has not replied to the Inquirer’s attempts to get his side of the story. However, in a statement he issued after he was included in the plunder charges, Andaya denied wrongdoing, saying he was unaware people were going “to take advantage of a tragedy so as to make money and do their racket.”
“What’s worrisome is that we are setting a precedent wherein all those involved in the ministerial release of the funds, including DBM officials, should from now on become automatic coaccused in every graft case to be filed in the country,” he said.
“Why am I being made a coaccused if evidence shows that my only participation is the expediency in the manner of the release of the funds to alleviate the miseries of the typhoon victims?”