DBM bares lawmakers’ letters to bogus NGOs
Did taxpayer money made available to legislators through the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) also land in bogus foundations put up by alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles?
In 2011, the year the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) announced the economic stimulus spending program, four senators sought the release of P100 million for each, which they later channeled to nongovernment organizations (NGOs) identified with Napoles, documents obtained by the Inquirer showed.
In separate letters, Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Vicente Sotto III initially asked that the amounts be released for projects to be implemented by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
But they later told the DBM to “realign” the funds to the National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC), and then endorsed foundations linked to Napoles to “implement” the projects.
There were noticeable similarities in form and content in the four senators’ letters, such as the description of the foundations as either “partners” or “conduits” in the implementation of the projects.
The most strikingly similar were the senators’ letters to the DBM wherein they asked that the funds be moved “from” the DAR “to” the NLDC. They bore what appeared to be the signatures of the four senators.
All the letters to the DBM were coursed through budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, who was included in a plunder complaint filed last Thursday by the Department of Justice for allegedly pocketing for himself part of the P900 million in Malampaya Fund intended for typhoon victims. Also charged were former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, three of her Cabinet members, and 20 others.
“May I request that we include some nongovernment organizations as our partners in the implementation of the project subject to government accounting and auditing rules and regulations,” Revilla wrote NLDC president Gondelina Amata in a letter dated March 19, 2012.
Revilla then identified three NGOs—the Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (GASMFI), Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc. (Cared), and the Kaupdanan Para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (KPMI). The first two foundations were to receive P30 million each while KPMI was to get P40 million.
Revilla’s P100-million request was covered by special allotment release order (Saro) No. E-11-01881 dated Dec. 6, 2011.
Earlier on Nov. 22, 2011, Revilla had written then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile seeking an “endorsement” to the DBM for the release of P100 million to the DAR. He said the amount was “chargeable against any available fund for the purpose.”
Just the month before, the DBM had announced that the Aquino administration would “implement P72.11 billion in additional projects,” using savings from 2010 and 2011, through a new mechanism called the DAP.
The Aquino administration is now under fire for allegedly using funds released through the DAP to bribe the senators, who sat as judges in the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad later admitted that 16 senators received between P30 million and P100 million after Corona was convicted in May last year. But like President Aquino, he insisted that the amounts were not intended as a bribe because they were released “after the fact.”
Estrada, then the Senate President Pro Tempore, also wrote Enrile on Nov. 22, 2011, seeking a similar endorsement as that requested by Revilla. On Dec. 22, 2011, he wrote Abad to “rectify” the initial release of P100 million to the DAR so the funds could now be made available to the NLDC. The Estrada fund request was covered by Saro No. E-11-01882.
Then on March 16, 2012, Estrada wrote Amata: “May I request for the release of the funds to the following nongovernment organizations as our partner in the implementation of the above undertakings, subject to government accounting and auditing rules and regulations?”
Estrada listed the Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (AEPFFI) and the Agricultura para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc. (APMFI) which would each “implement” P35 million worth of projects. The remaining P30 million was to be implemented by the Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (SDPFFI).
Estrada designated his deputy chief of staff, Pauline Labayen, to “sign, follow up, supervise and act on my behalf to ensure the proper and timely implementation of the said projects.”
On Nov. 23, 2011, Marcos and Sotto sent separate letters to Enrile and Sen. Franklin Drilon (then finance committee chair), respectively, requesting his endorsement for the release of P100 million worth of livelihood projects each.
As had been done by Estrada and Revilla, Marcos and Sotto later asked the DBM to realign their respective funds from the DAR to the NLDC. Marcos’ request was covered by Saro No. E-11-01883 with a notice of cash allocation (NCA) No. BMB-E-11-0022390.
In Marcos’ March 16, 2012, letter to Amata, he listed as “conduits” the following NGOs: AEPFF (P45 million), APMFI (P25 million), KPMI (P25 million), and GASMFI (P5 million).
In Sotto’s case, he asked the DBM to move P70 million of his original P100-million fund release from the DAR to the NLDC. The amount he sought to transfer was covered by Saro No. E-11-01884 and NCA No. NCA-BMB-E-11-0022394.
Sotto wrote Amata on March 21, 2012, saying that “our office has designated the following registered nongovernment organizations as your conduit in the implementation” of livelihood projects supposedly intended for “displaced families/marginal farm family beneficiaries and other constituents (nationwide).”
Included in the Sotto letter was the following breakdown: KPMI (P15 million), SDPFFI (P20 million), and Cared (P35 million).
“Additionally, authority is hereby given to Maria Lourdes Estonilo, my Director V, to sign, follow up, supervise and act on my behalf to ensure its proper and timely implementation,” Sotto wrote.
Sotto last night vehemently denied requesting the DAR to transfer a huge amount of funds to the NLDC for distribution to NGOs identified with Napoles.
“I don’t recall writing such kind of letter. And you can’t forget if it involves such a huge amount,” he said in a phone interview.
“Most probably someone used my name or had my signature forged,” Sotto added.
Sotto lamented that he was again being mentioned in a report on the alleged misuse of pork when the last time such a thing happened, local government officials backed him up to indicate there was nothing irregular with the projects that he had funded in their areas.
“The last time this happened, it was found there was nothing irregular as far as I was concerned,” he said.
As to the copies of letters furnished the Inquirer, Sotto said: ‘‘That was what my office was asked to verify a few weeks ago to check, if that letter came from me. I’m positive it’s not my signature. Even a non-handwriting expert will notice (the difference).”
He offered to send copies of his real signature, ‘‘and you’ll see the difference.”
Marcos said he had already denied any involvement with the release of P100 million of DAP funds.
In a Sept. 9 press statement, Marcos said that after going through his office’s records following a COA inquiry, his staff’s investigation showed that his signature in the supposed letter to Amata dated March 16, 2012, “was falsified.”
Marcos added that the endorsement letter doesn’t appear in his “docket system,” something that was implemented in his office starting 2011.
He said even the signatures of his chief of staff, Ramon Cardenas, that appeared in MOAs to four NGOs were forged.
“I have always exerted due diligence to ensure every centavo set aside for projects will be used in relevant and beneficial projects for the public,” Marcos said in his Sept. 9 statement.
Revilla’s lawyer Joel Bodegon said the senator would “want it [the letters ascribed to him] also examined by a document expert.”
“Most likely these are also fake,” Bodegon said over the phone.
“The existence of those documents only shows that the syndicate including the whistle-blowers continues to operate,” he added.
Calls and text messages to Estrada were not immediately returned.
The state-owned NLDC was allegedly the main conduit of the pork barrel funds of certain senators and representatives that illegally ended up in the Napoles-controlled NGOs. The agency, managed by the Land Bank of the Philippines is the main source of funds for poor farmers in unserved, scarcely populated areas of the country.
According to the whistle-blowers in the P10-billion pork barrel fund scam allegedly run by Napoles that is now the subject of multiple plunder complaints in the Ombudsman, the NLDC was used as the conduit for about P1 billion worth of pork barrel funds of five senators between 2008 and 2010—Estrada, Revilla, Marcos and two other senators, Juan Ponce Enrile and Gregorio Honasan.
Amata was tagged by whistle-blower Benhur Luy as the contact person of Napoles in the NLDC. With a report from Norman Bordadora
First posted 1:11 am | Saturday, October 5th, 2013
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