Cuenco’s 2006 PDAF spent on seedlings and P6 M goat house
Were these projects from the pork barrel of then Representative Antonio Cuenco ever realized in Cebu City’s south district?
The matter is still under investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas seven years after the amount of P14.7 million from Cuenco’s Priority Development Assistance (PDAF) was channeled to a barangay captain between 2006 to 2008.
Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol yesterday told reporters that the case was elevated from a fact-finding probe to a preliminary investigation.
The main respondent is former Guadalupe barangay captain Eugenio “Jinjing” Faelnar, who was then president of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) in Cebu City.
Also to be included is Guadalupe barangay councilor Wilfredo Gallardo who was chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee at the time. His name was inadvertently left out in the reports of the Commission on Audit and PACPO, said Apostol.
With the national scandal over PDAF misuse, old cases involving legislators’ pork barrel appear to be moving forward.
The seedlings and goats were supposed to to be distributed to mountain barangays in the south district. The PDAF allocation was released to the Department of Agriculture (DA) which in turn disbursed it to Faelnar.
Faelnar, in an interview yesterday, insisted that everything was in order.
“The fruit-bearing trees were properly documented. Any barangay who asked for it were given. I also gave seedlings to barangays in the northern part of Cebu,” he said yesterday.
Faelnar said he also returned P7.6 million of the P14.7 million amount to the DA instead of using it to buy hybrid goats.
“I chose not to purchase the goats since they were too expensive. I was told that the price of one goat was P57,000. I don’t know what particular breed of the goat we would have purchased,” he said.
“It’s for the DA to implement that,” Faelnar said.
He showed reporters a copy of the P7.6 million check for the amount returned to the DA in 2008.
Barangay Guadalupe and the DA had a Memorandum of Agreement to implement a Small Ruminant Production and Demonstration Project as part of efforts to ensure food security for residents living in the hilly sections.
Cuenco is not impleaded in the case at this point but he may still be brought in if evidence is found against him, said Apostol.
In a phone interview yesterday, Cuenco said he’s willing to help the anti-graft office in finding out what really happened to his PDAF.
“I’m willing to testify in case they need me. I will tell the truth,” Cuenco told CDN.
Cuenco said he had earlier requested the Department of Agriculture (DA) to verify whether seedlings were really planted and if their purchase price was reasonable but until now the DA hasn’t given him feedback.
“I really had doubts regarding the P6.2 million that was spent to purchase seedlings,” he said.
A congressman is allotted P70 million as PDAF to identify “soft” and “hard” projects to be implemented in his district.
But after the Napoles scandal broke out in July exposing the misuse of P10 billion of pork barrel funds through kickbacks to legislators and fake non-government organizations, President Aquino is under public pressure to scrap the pork barrel system and to penalize all those involved in the scam.
This is the second case of Cuenco’s PDAF under investigation by the Ombudsman.
The Commission on Audit found evidence of a conspiracy in the misuse of P3 million of Cuenco’s PDAF, a finding recently upheld by the Supreme Court.
The case involved “ghost purchases” of medicine for the poor coursed through the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, forged prescriptions and fake beneficiaries referred to the government hospital.
However, the Ombudsman said Cuenco is not impleaded in the case although his son James, an incumbent Cebu city councilor and two former personnel of the “Tony and Tommy” health services program were implicatedi in the conspiracy.
The COA and Ombudsman held liable retired VSMMC chief Filomena Delos Santos; former chief administrative office Josefa Bacaltos; chief of pharmacy Nelanie Antoni; and hospital accountant Maureen Bien for the loss of funds. /Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Reporter
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