Senators sought DAP transfer–Palace
Malacañang on Saturday urged four senators who reportedly requested that millions of pesos from the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) be funneled to bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) identified with Janet Lim Napoles to come clean on the issue.
In a radio interview, deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Palace was “surprised” when it read the story in the Inquirer that Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr., Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vicente Sotto III had written letters requesting the transfer of funds initially allotted to the Department of Agrarian Reform to the National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC), and naming certain NGOs as their conduits in the implementation of the project.
Valte said the parties concerned, including the government, should establish whether there was truth to reports that the senators actually named the Napoles’ NGOs as recipients of the funds from the DAP.
The senators have denied the accusations, saying their signatures were forged.
When asked why the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) allowed the senators to divert their allocations from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to these NGOs, Valte said: “Best to ask Secretary (Florencio) Abad.”
When contacted by the Inquirer, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said his department did release the allotments of the senators, but stressed: “We never choose the projects nor the implementing agency.”
On the matter of downloading the funds to the questionable NGOs and questions on whether or not bidding procedures were followed, Abad told the Inquirer to direct its questions to the implementing agency.
“You should direct your inquiries to the DAR, which cancelled the project with the senators and the NLDC, which accommodated the projects.”
“The DBM’s jurisdiction and responsibility is the release of the allotment, which gives agencies the authority to obligate. So if your questions are ‘Why was there no bidding? Why were the funds downloaded to NGOs?’ These can best be answered by the implementing agency.”
When contacted, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes confirmed that some P470 million from the DAP was initially assigned to the DAR but then the amount was suddenly withdrawn by the budget department and given to the NLDC.
He clarified, however, that the NLDC, a government-owned and -controlled corporation, was not under the DAR, and that the amount it eventually received from the DAP did not pass through the DAR.
Between December 2011 and January 2012, De los Reyes said the Department of Budget and Management issued a special allotment release order (Saro) to the DAR amounting to more than P470 million.
“The DAR never requested that amount,” De los Reyes said.
He said he only learned later that four senators had identified agrarian reform projects into which the DAP funds could be poured.
He said the agency’s bids and awards committee (BAC) had raised some questions on the kinds of projects proposed.
He said he could not recall what happened after that, except that the DAR later received a notice of a “negative Saro” from the DBM.
“In effect, that means the DBM was taking back the money. So that amount never passed through the Department of Agrarian Reform,” he said.
De los Reyes said he found out later that the Saro had been transferred to the NLDC, but he was not privy to the circumstances that led to it.
In previous interviews, whistle-blower Benhur Luy said the change in the implementing agency (from DAR to NLDC) was dictated by Napoles.
Luy said the funds were initially supposed to be channeled through the DAR with local government units (LGUs) as beneficiaries.
This was allegedly opposed by Napoles.
“Madame Jenny did not want the DAR as the implementing agency because the beneficiaries were LGUs where she said she had to talk to and pay off a lot of people,” Luy said.
Thus the funds ended up with the NLDC as implementing agency.
NLDC president Gondelina Amata was among those charged with plunder in the first batch of respondents filed by the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation in connection with the pork barrel scam.
The NLDC under Amata was allegedly used as a conduit for Napoles’ schemes.
Levito Baligod, counsel of the whistle-blower, put in some cautionary words: “This is an ongoing project and it would be premature to speak of irregularity at this time because there is a period of liquidation.”
The money was released by the DBM in 2012 but the lawmakers were given one year to liquidate the funds.
Other reports have implied the release of P100 million each to some senators was a Palace bribe for having supported the President’s campaign to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Based on documents obtained by the Inquirer, Estrada, Revilla and Marcos supposedly sought the release of P100 million each, and Sotto P70 million from the DBM on various dates from Dec. 22, 2011, to March 21, 2012.
Usec was conduit
The letters of the senators were all coursed through Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, who was also included in the plunder complaint filed last Thursday by the DOJ in connection with the P900-million Malampaya Fund scam.
The documents also showed that the four senators initially asked that the funds be released for projects to be implemented by the DAR but they later asked that the funds be moved from the DAR to the NLDC.
When Luy appeared in the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on the pork barrel scam, he admitted that they drafted letter requests for funds for the mentioned lawmakers, but subject to the approval of their chiefs of staff.
The letters used similar descriptions of the foundations as either “partners” or “conduits” in the implementation of the projects.
Revilla named three Napoles 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 NGOs were to receive P30 million each, while KPMI was to get P40 million.
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.”
Labayen was also charged with plunder along with Estrada in the first batch of respondents in the pork barrel scam.
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