Uson to run under party-list group linked to pork barrel scam
Former Assistant Presidential Communication Secretary Mocha Uson is the first nominee in the party-list elections of AA-Kasosyo, a group linked to the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Uson will be joined in the party-list polls by former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, the first nominee of Luntian Pilipinas.
Roque said he took the advice of President Rodrigo Duterte not to run for senator and instead seek a seat in the House of Representatives.
Uson, who claims to be an anticorruption advocate, said she was unaware of the history of AA-Kasosyo (Kasosyo Producers-Consumers Exchange Association Inc.), but was not bothered by it.
“Yeah, sure, everyone is tainted,” she said, shrugging off questions asked about the group’s notoriety.
She said that she had been an honorary member of AA-Kasosyo since 2016 and that she believed in what it was advocating—teaching entrepreneurship to overseas Filipino workers.
Her fellow nominee, Teodoro Pastrana, said they were not informed of any corruption allegations against AA-Kasosyo.
Pastrana, law dean of San Sebastian College, said he and Uson were “surprised” to learn about AA-Kasosyo’s past. They were not informed, he said.
Pastrana described news reports focusing on AA-Kasosyo’s past as “slanted.”
Uson said that should she win, she would target the Makabayan bloc, a group of militant lawmakers in the House of Representatives. She criticized groups belonging to the bloc for using taxpayer money to fund their rallies.
In its registration papers in the Securities and Exchange Commission, AA-Kasosyo describes itself as the representative of marginalized sectors—
producers, consumers, farmers and fishermen.
It was first registered as a party-list organization in 2007.
In December 2010, AA-Kasosyo won a seat in the House with Solaiman Pangandaman as its representative.
In July 2011, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman replaced his brother Solaiman as representative of AA-Kasosyo.
The approval of Nasser’s appointment was highly contested because he was not among the five nominees qualified to take the vacant seat.
Solaiman was said to be migrating to the United States at the time to concentrate on his business there.
The rush to affirm Nasser Pangandaman as a lawmaker came after former Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao accused the former secretary of acting as a bagman for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Pangandaman denied the accusation.
The former President allegedly got P200 million in kickbacks from farm-to-market road projects in 2008 and 2009. Arroyo denied the allegation.
One of Uson’s fellow nominees is former Lanao del Sur Rep. Mohammed Hussein Pangandaman, a son of Nasser.
In 2013, the National Bureau of Investigation implicated the Pangandamans in the pork barrel scam.
Mohammed Hussein allegedly channeled P30 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation to National Agriculture and Fisheries Council (NAFC), a dubious nonprofit organization. PDAF, a pork barrel, was a source of kickbacks for lawmakers.
A Commission on Audit report said NAFC projects were implemented without bidding and proof that the recipients benefited from livelihood projects.
Nasser as AA-Kasosyo representative, meanwhile, channeled P15 million of his PDAF to Kaupdan para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (KMFI).
Malampaya and pork barrel scam whistleblowers Benhur Luy and Merlina Sula said KMFI was one of the 20 nonprofits that Napoles, their boss, had set up as conduits for ghost projects.
Luy claimed that lawmakers, who channeled their pork barrel to Napoles’ nonprofits, got kickbacks equivalent to 50 percent of the project cost.
That was not the first time Nasser had chosen KMFI for his projects.
Nasser also chose KMFI as one of the private groups that would help communities hit by Tropical Storm “Pepeng” in 2009.
KMFI supposedly received P75 million from the Malampaya fund from the Department of Agrarian Reform but an internal audit showed that none of the money reached the intended beneficiaries.
In December 2017, Pangandaman was among those indicted by the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the Malampaya fund scam.
Investigation showed that Pangandaman allegedly funneled P900 million from the Malampaya fund in 2009 to Napoles’ nonprofits.
Before the Malampaya fund scam, Pangandaman also chose seven Napoles’ nonprofits to supposedly distribute P200 million in agrarian reform funds to beneficiaries in 2007. The supposed beneficiaries denied having signed or received anything from the groups.
In Malacañang, Roque, who earlier wanted to run for senator, told reporters he would file on Tuesday a certificate of nomination for Luntian Pilipinas.
“I took his (Mr. Duterte) advice that the best option right now is to go back to Congress, which really was one of my options,” he said.
Roque said the Senate race was really tight. “We have seven reelectionists and five comebacking senators, in addition to the new faces. And finance, as I said, has always been a hindrance.”
Parted on good terms
His decision came after a talk with Mr. Duterte on Sunday night following a book launch at the Manila Hotel that the President attended. After the talk, he and Mr. Duterte parted on “very good terms.”
His announcement ended months of speculation about his election plans, especially after Mr. Duterte replaced him with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo as presidential spokesperson.
Roque said Luntian Pilipinas’ second nominee was Ciara Sotto, daughter of Senate President Vicente Sotto III, an ally of Mr. Duterte.
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