83 lawmakers tied to agri pork racket
MANILA, Philippines—Four senators and 79 representatives coursed a total of P1.7 billion of their pork barrel allocations during a three-year period through state-operated National Agri-business Corp. (Nabcor), with orders to funnel the funds to questionable nongovernment organizations (NGOs), official documents showed.
Nabcor, which is under the Department of Agriculture (DA), was the favored implementing agency of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., who had downloaded P392 million of the combined amount of their allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) from 2007 to 2009.
The three are under investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged P10-billion PDAF scam said to have been engineered by detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. The amounts they channeled to Nabcor were among those under investigation by the Ombudsman.
The documents were submitted by former Nabcor officials Rhodora Mendoza and Vic Cacal to the Office of the Ombudsman, a summary of which was made available to the Inquirer. The two are among 38 people under investigation, including Enrile, Estrada and Revilla.
The fund releases to Nabcor and NGOs were subsequently reviewed by the Commission on Audit (COA).
The papers showed that Sen. Edgardo Angara also used Nabcor as his implementing agency for P20 million of his PDAF allocation and endorsed the NGO Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) to carry out a project with Special Allocation Release Order (Saro) No. ROCS-09-05619 issued in November 2009 intended to buy seedlings and farm implements.
Angara is not among those under investigation by the Ombudsman. He was not immediately available for comment. Enrile, Estrada and Revilla have denied wrongdoing.
Some members of the broadcast media also benefited from the bonanza from Nabcor, according to the papers.
Enrile, Estrada and Revilla allegedly endorsed dummy organizations controlled by Napoles—Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation and Social Development Program for farmers—through Nabcor.
Enrile, also reportedly authorized the release of P15 million with Saro No. 09-04956 of his PDAF to KKFI, where the transactions were later questioned by the COA special audit team.
The KKFI, both endorsed by Angara and Enrile, was found to have submitted faked receipts and lists of ghost beneficiaries in their liquidation papers, the COA said.
According to the COA report, Angara did not reply to the team’s request for confirmation, while Enrile had confirmed the signature of his former chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, in the memorandum of agreement (MOA) covering his project.
Revilla also endorsed to Nabcor as recipient of his P10-million pork barrel the St. James the Apostle Multipurpose Cooperative with office in Betis, Pampanga province, which the COA report showed submitted useless results to help small farmers and fishermen.
Based on the MOA involving Revilla, Nabcor and the NGO, the amount involved the identification of agricultural livelihood projects in strategic provinces nationwide through research and study. The COA report showed that Revilla confirmed the authenticity of his signature in the MOA, contrary to his statements to the media.
Estrada also separately endorsed P21 million to Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc. supposedly to purchase farm implements and seedlings.
In the same COA report, the agency said receipts, suppliers and beneficiaries were fabricated. Estrada also did not comply with the confirmation requirement of the COA audit team.
The Inquirer was furnished copies of original documents, vouchers, checks and records that detailed how the billions of pesos for projects that passed through Nabcor were released “with undue haste,” as described by Mendoza, then vice president for finance, and Cacal, head of general services.
In a series of interviews, the two Nabcor officials said bogus organizations were personally endorsed by legislators to either then Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap or Nabcor president Alan Javellana.
Mendoza said Nabcor became an implementing agency for PDAF projects beginning in 2007. She said she was sacked in 2011 because “she knew too much.”
In January this year, Cacal resigned after he was ordered by Javellana to answer allegations in the plunder case. “I think I would be made the scapegoat,” he explained.
Mendoza also said that an estimated P5 billion worth of projects came from the DA’s attached agencies, such as the Agricultural Credit Policy Council, Bureau of Soil and Water Management, and the Bureau of Posts Harvest Research and Extension.
The two officials said they realized the seriousness of the Nabcor operations after whistle-blowers, led by former Napoles employee Benhur Luy, revealed the shenanigans that led to a complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice in the Office of the Ombudsman.
“The paperwork for the cash trail seemed to be all in order that it was really difficult to pin down a person, but in your gut you know something was really, really wrong,” Mendoza told the Inquirer.
“It was only after Benhur Luy came forward and exposed Napoles in the P10-billion pork barrel scam that it became crystal clear to us the modus operandi to siphon government funds, and one of them was through Nabcor,” she said.
P544M to Napoles NGOs
Mendoza said she had met and talked to Luy several times when he picked up checks for the Napoles NGOs. She said that Luy also introduced her to Napoles when she attended Mass at the JLN office in Ortigas, Pasig.
Cacal said he talked with Luy several times, but never met Napoles.
The two named Javellana, who is likewise facing an investigation, as the conduit for PDAF kickbacks.
“We were instructed by Javellana to process payments and released checks with undue haste to nongovernment organizations and suppliers without proper bidding and without complete documentary requirements, despite numerous reminders to him that those were not within the agency guidelines,” Mendoza said.
They added that the “undue haste” in the release of checks only made sense to them after Luy came forward and exposed the alleged conspiracy between lawmakers, heads of implementing agencies and Napoles to defraud the government of funds meant to ease rural poverty.
Mendoza, in her affidavit, also said that apart from Javellana, Yap also allegedly pressured her to expedite check releases to NGOs.
Mendoza’s records showed a total of P544 million of the PDAF funds went to the Napoles NGOs. As Nabcor vice president for finance, Mendoza was a cosignatory to the checks until she was fired in 2011.