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Tarlac mayors also deny asking for pork funds

TARLAC CITY, Philippines—Former Mayor Harmes Sembrano of Gerona, Tarlac province, said he did not write any letter requesting funds for agricultural enhancement programs for his town during his term.

Sembrano, now a provincial board member of Tarlac, is among the 44 mayors who supposedly signed letters to then Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap between Nov. 7, 2006, and Feb. 5, 2007, asking for funds for their agricultural enhancement programs.

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The 44 letters, however, were delivered to the office of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, who has been linked to the misuse of the pork barrel funds, officially called the Priority Development Assistance Fund, through bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

In a telephone interview on Thursday, Sembrano reaffirmed the contents of a letter of the former president of the Tarlac Mayors League, Estelita Aquino, denying reports that the towns of the Tarlac mayors named in an Aug. 4 report of the Inquirer were recipients of funds from NGOs linked to Napoles and her company.

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Aquino, the former mayor of Moncada town, said she and Sembrano, Dionisio Manuel (La Paz), Tito Razalan (Mayantoc), Gregoria Manglicmot (Ramos), Vicente Pacada Jr. (San Clemente), Samuel Eugenio (San Jose), Reynaldo Modomo (Sta. Ignacia) and Emmanuel Guiam (Victoria) “do not know personally Napoles or [fashion designer Eddie] Baddeo; neither did we make business of any kind with them.”

Sembrano said the letter that Aquino sent to the Inquirer was their collective response to the issues. He said the former officials were aware of and read Aquino’s letter before it was sent to the newspaper.

Only Sembrano and Razalan are still in public office, serving as Tarlac board members.

Sembrano said Modomo had died but his name was included in the letter they sent to the Inquirer on request of the late official’s wife, Councilor Nora Modomo, to clear her husband’s name.

In the letter, Aquino said: “For us to seek financial assistance from senators or congressmen or any government agencies is but customary for us in order that we could sustain our financial capabilities in the implementation of projects deemed necessary.”

But she said the former mayors were puzzled how the supposed letters found their way into Napoles’ hands.

“On how our letters of request, if ever there were, falling in the hands of Napoles is not within our knowledge or control. Besides, there were no records to show, as attested to by our municipal treasurer and budget officer, that we were in receipt of the allocation referred to,” Aquino said.

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TAGS: fertilizer fund, Pork barrel, pork funds, Tarlac province
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