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Aquino orders DA, DBM chiefs to assure public on measures vs graft

President Aquino lll. INQUIRER file photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino has ordered Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to explain the steps that have been undertaken since 2010 to assure the public that things have changed since Day One of the Aquino presidency.

Amid revelations that billions of state funds have gone into bogus non-government organizations with the alleged collusion of lawmakers and local officials, the President reminded the two Cabinet members that there were doubts over the release of several pork barrel-funded government transactions, and that “saying sorry” would not suffice.

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“But I reminded them that we saw this (scheme when we came to power); this was pointed out to us,” the President said in an ambush interview in Subic Bay, Olongapo.

“There are doubts over these transactions. We can’t just say sorry (to the taxpayers). How can we have stricter rules to prevent this kind of situation, if this really happened?” he added but without citing specific transactions.

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He expected Alcala and Abad to come up with new measures to prevent the recurrence of these questionable funneling of pork barrel and other public funds if indeed they continued to thrive under the new dispensation.

The President did not deny certain flaws in the allocation of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel, but assured everyone that the allegations linking Alcala to the release of P89.2 million to a bogus NGO would be part of the inquiry by the National Bureau of Investigation.

Aquino, however, noted that the close to P90-million released by the Department of Agriculture under Alcala’s watch was “peanuts” compared to the P728-million fertilizer fund scam under the Arroyo administration.

“You yourself said it’s 90 million pesos. Compare that to the (P728-million) fertilizer scam, how big is the difference? And the fertilizer scam is the tip of the iceberg-there’s more,” the President said, responding to a question by the Philippine Daily Inquirer in the ambush interview at Subic Bay, Olongapo, where he presided over the arrival ceremony for the Navy’s new gun ship, BRP Ramon Alcaraz.

The President also disabused the minds of his critics that allies of the administration–including Cabinet members–would be spared from the investigation into the misuse of the pork barrel funds.

“I said that in my SONA (State of the Nation Address). Wherever the evidence leads us, wherever we could obtain evidence, we will follow wherever the evidence points us. We will not file weak cases–it is important that the evidence is strong–so that whoever is at fault, (he or she will know of the) certainty of punishment,” said Aquino.

All the allegations cropping up related to the pork barrel scam, including the P90 million released by the DA to a bogus agency owned by Janet Lim-Napoles for 11 projects of eight House members in the past Congress, would be covered by the NBI investigation.

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“All will be included,” said the President, but quickly pointed to the marked difference in the DA sector between his leadership and that of his predecessor.

Referring to disbursements of public funds, Aquino said:

“We have been stricter, and that’s true. Many have been affected by the stricter process (of accreditation and releasing public funds).”

He disclosed that his administration had streamlined the list of NGOs to be accredited as recipients of pork barrel besides the tightened accreditation of NGOs by the DA.

“We have seen a big decline (in the number of accredited NGOs),” he said, but added: “We can’t really say that the (process) would be perfect. We can’t just say that there’s a zero opportunity for crooks to take advantage (of the current system), etcetera,” he said.

“But between Secretary Alcala and Secretary Abad, I told them to explain the steps that have been undertaken from the time that we started (holding) office,” he said, explaining that Alcala would be “demonstrating” the changes he had instituted thus far as DA chief.

Comparing the situation between the past leadership of the DA and the current one under Alcala, “there is a very marked difference in (terms of) opportunities for potential … misuse of public funds.”

Asked if he had explicitly told Alcala to explain initial reports linking him to the misuse of Pdaf funds, Aquino said:

“No, that’s why, he’s coming out this week. He will explain all of the steps that I have undertaken from the time that we started.”

The President stressed that Alcala’s “primary function is to improve our agriculture, food security. These allegations (of fund misuse) are not (his) primary function,” said Aquino.

Aquino was referring to the task of assisting NGOs get funding from lawmakers, or the latter channeling their share of Pdaf to the NGOs.

“We should understand that all of them (Cabinet members and agency heads)–when we see problems or potential problems–they are ordered to look into these (problems). But we can’t focus on all these (problems) at the same time, but one at a time, isn’t that so? So prioritization is needed,” he said.

“Let me repeat this. The record, I think, will speak for itself. If you contrast the (past anomalous transactions) that had been allowed to (escape scrutiny) versus the ones that prospered this time, there’s a … dramatic (improvement),” he said, citing the P728-million fertilizer fund scam under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“That’s initial (amount), right? Then there’s part 2, part 3, etcetera, (to the fertilizer scam). What (the DA) is now being accused of is, so far, P90 (million),” he said, but thought that the amount involved was only P19 million–not P90 million.

MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino has ordered Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to explain the steps that have been undertaken since 2010 to assure the public that things have changed since Day One of the Aquino presidency.

Amid revelations that billions of state funds have gone into bogus non-government organizations with the alleged collusion of lawmakers and local officials, the President reminded the two Cabinet members that there were doubts over the release of several pork barrel-funded government transactions, and that “saying sorry” would not suffice.

“But I reminded them that we saw this (scheme when we came to power); this was pointed out to us,” the President said in an ambush interview in Subic Bay, Olongapo.

“There are doubts over these transactions. We can’t just say sorry (to the taxpayers). How can we have stricter rules to prevent this kind of situation, if this really happened?” he added but without citing specific transactions.

He expected Alcala and Abad to come up with new measures to prevent the recurrence of these questionable funneling of pork barrel and other public funds if indeed they continued to thrive under the new dispensation.

The President did not deny certain flaws in the allocation of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel, but assured everyone that the allegations linking Alcala to the release of P89.2 million to a bogus NGO would be part of the inquiry by the National Bureau of Investigation.

Aquino, however, noted that the close to P90-million released by the Department of Agriculture under Alcala’s watch was “peanuts” compared to the P728-million fertilizer fund scam under the Arroyo administration.

“You yourself said it’s 90 million pesos. Compare that to the (P728-million) fertilizer scam, how big is the difference? And the fertilizer scam is the tip of the iceberg-there’s more,” the President said, responding to a question by the Philippine Daily Inquirer in the ambush interview at Subic Bay, Olongapo, where he presided over the arrival ceremony for the Navy’s new gun ship, BRP Ramon Alcaraz.

The President also disabused the minds of his critics that allies of the administration–including Cabinet members–would be spared from the investigation into the misuse of the pork barrel funds.

“I said that in my SONA (State of the Nation Address). Wherever the evidence leads us, wherever we could obtain evidence, we will follow wherever the evidence points us. We will not file weak cases–it is important that the evidence is strong–so that whoever is at fault, (he or she will know of the) certainty of punishment,” said Aquino.

All the allegations cropping up related to the pork barrel scam, including the P90 million released by the DA to a bogus agency owned by Janet Lim-Napoles for 11 projects of eight House members in the past Congress, would be covered by the NBI investigation.

“All will be included,” said the President, but quickly pointed to the marked difference in the DA sector between his leadership and that of his predecessor.

Referring to disbursements of public funds, Aquino said:

“We have been stricter, and that’s true. Many have been affected by the stricter process (of accreditation and releasing public funds).”

He disclosed that his administration had streamlined the list of NGOs to be accredited as recipients of pork barrel besides the tightened accreditation of NGOs by the DA.

“We have seen a big decline (in the number of accredited NGOs),” he said, but added: “We can’t really say that the (process) would be perfect. We can’t just say that there’s a zero opportunity for crooks to take advantage (of the current system), etcetera,” he said.

“But between Secretary Alcala and Secretary Abad, I told them to explain the steps that have been undertaken from the time that we started (holding) office,” he said, explaining that Alcala would be “demonstrating” the changes he had instituted thus far as DA chief.

Comparing the situation between the past leadership of the DA and the current one under Alcala, “there is a very marked difference in (terms of) opportunities for potential … misuse of public funds.”

Asked if he had explicitly told Alcala to explain initial reports linking him to the misuse of Pdaf funds, Aquino said:

“No, that’s why, he’s coming out this week. He will explain all of the steps that I have undertaken from the time that we started.”

The President stressed that Alcala’s “primary function is to improve our agriculture, food security. These allegations (of fund misuse) are not (his) primary function,” said Aquino.

Aquino was referring to the task of assisting NGOs get funding from lawmakers, or the latter channeling their share of Pdaf to the NGOs.

“We should understand that all of them (Cabinet members and agency heads)–when we see problems or potential problems–they are ordered to look into these (problems). But we can’t focus on all these (problems) at the same time, but one at a time, isn’t that so? So prioritization is needed,” he said.

“Let me repeat this. The record, I think, will speak for itself. If you contrast the (past anomalous transactions) that had been allowed to (escape scrutiny) versus the ones that prospered this time, there’s a … dramatic (improvement),” he said, citing the P728-million fertilizer fund scam under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“That’s initial (amount), right? Then there’s part 2, part 3, etcetera, (to the fertilizer scam). What (the DA) is now being accused of is, so far, P90 (million),” he said, but thought that the amount involved was only P19 million–not P90 million.

“Well, that’s news to me–the P90 (million). Initially, only P19 (million) was being questioned. But I’ll ask him (Alcala) to look at the list of (releases to NGOs). But still, practically, (we’re only talking of about) 10 percent of what used to (go into questionable releases), or just one transaction from a series of transactions,” Aquino said.

“Well, that’s news to me–the P90 (million). Initially, only P19 (million) was being questioned. But I’ll ask him (Alcala) to look at the list of (releases to NGOs). But still, practically, (we’re only talking of about) 10 percent of what used to (go into questionable releases), or just one transaction from a series of transactions,” Aquino said.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino, Government, Graft and Corruption
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