TRC disowns bogus livelihood projects
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Officials of the Technology Resource Center (TRC) have dismissed reports linking the agency to the allegedly anomalous livelihood projects supported by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla.
The center’s director general, Dennis Cunanan, belied accusations that the agency had chosen a fake nongovernment organization (NGO) as partner in implementing the projects, which the Commission on Audit (COA) found to be fictitious.
“We cannot [choose the NGOs] because that is not our fund. If [the NGO] is not endorsed by the congressman, we cannot act because that is their money,” Cunanan told the Inquirer by phone last week.
Napoleon Domingo, manager for the TRC’s corporate planning and development department, cited agency records showing that no livelihood project funded by Padilla’s PDAF had been implemented in Nueva Vizcaya.
“What we have regularly implemented are made through the [Technology and Livelihood Development Center] with the provincial government,” he said.
Padilla earlier faulted the TRC for the anomalous implementation of livelihood projects worth at least P7 million and charged against his PDAF in 2008.
Local officials and residents have expressed disgust over the COA findings that millions of pesos in Padilla’s PDAF had been released to fictitious beneficiaries through a nonexistent NGO, the Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc., from 2007 to 2009.
The anomaly has been subject of a government-wide performance audit carried out by the COA, mainly on the use of lawmakers’ funds of about P70 million yearly.
In an interview, Padilla said he did not have a hand in the implementation of the project and did not know and never met any of the officials of Aaron Foundation.
Instead, he turned the tables on TRC officials for choosing the foundation, which listed about 3,000 names as recipients of livelihood trainings and information materials but which the COA found to be spurious.
Cunanan denied this, saying that the TRC used to partner with NGOs in implementing PDAF-funded projects only by way of an accommodation to lawmakers’ requests.
“Out of respect for [the congressmen] we allow this but eventually, many of these were soon found to be tainted with anomalies,” he said.
However, Cunanan acknowledged that the use of NGOs as partners in pork barrel-funded projects had been abused because of the lack of clear implementing guidelines.
“This is what we are trying to correct. This is why I sat down with the COA and formulated with them certain guidelines so these [abuses] will no longer be repeated,” he said.
Documents, including a letter to former TRC Director General Antonio Ortiz, showed that Padilla endorsed the Aaron Foundation to the TRC.
In a purported memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the TRC and Padilla, the NGO was designated as partner for his projects. Padilla, however, said he was not aware of any MOA signed in relation to his PDAF projects, adding that his signatures in the documents were forgeries.—Melvin Gascon