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Lawmakers on Nabcor list deny accusations

/ 02:53 AM March 18, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Lawmakers who were alleged to have coursed a total of P1.7 billion of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to questionable groups through state-owned National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) have denied the accusations.

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., who allegedly downloaded P392 million of their PDAF from 2007 to 2009 through the agency under the Department of Agriculture, earlier denied any wrongdoing.

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Former Sen. Edgardo Angara is among the senators named on the list submitted by two former officials of Nabcor to the Office of the Ombudsman. He was said to have allocated P20 million of his PDAF to Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation through Nabcor, the documents showed.

The Inquirer called but failed to get a comment from Angara and Estrada. Enrile’s staff said the senator would not issue a statement. Revilla’s counsel said he had yet to read the story.

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In an earlier statement, Angara said his office had no record of a P20-million fund release to Nabcor.

“As this supposed transaction occurred more than four to five years ago, we are gathering our files and looking into the matter,” Angara said in a statement in August last year.

Enrile, Estrada and Revilla are under investigation by the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged P10-billion PDAF scam engineered by Janet Lim-Napoles.

In his counteraffidavit submitted to the Ombudsman, Enrile insisted that he did not persuade or influence the agencies to “contract” the nongovernment organizations (NGOs) of Napoles.

“Indeed, if any conspiracy existed in this case, the conspiracy was between Napoles and the members of her group, including the whistle-blowers,” he said.

La Union Rep. Victor Ortega said he did not know Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation, which supposedly got P10 million of his PDAF during a period spanning 2007 to 2009.

“I don’t even know the NGO. It was Nabcor that handled it,” Ortega said in a phone interview. “They can investigate me. I did not get any funds.”

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Albay Rep. Al Francis Bichara denied choosing any Nabcor-affiliated NGO for a project. He said he had a request for a project with Nabcor but had not tagged any NGO to implement it.

“After that, never heard from them. No report. Thought the request was ignored,” he said in a text message.

Documents from Nabcor reportedly showed that Bichara’s PDAF went to Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation and Kaisa’t Kaagapay Mo Foundation.

Former Cebu Rep. Pablo John Garcia said he did not give P10 million of his PDAF to Kaagapay Magpakailanman Foundation.

“I’m surprised because the records show that all my PDAF went to either LGUs (local government units) in my district or Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center. None of them went to Nabcor, much less to any NGO, whether legitimate or illegitimate,” he told the Inquirer.

Apart from Garcia, among the Cebuano lawmakers allegedly involved in the scam were incumbent Toledo City Vice Mayor Antonio Yapha Jr., former Rep. Antonio Cuenco, former Rep. Eduardo Gullas, former Rep. Nerissa Soon-Ruiz and incumbent Danao City Vice Mayor Ramon Durano.

Gullas told the Inquirer that over P40 million of his PDAF given to three NGOs through Nabcor was “fully implemented and fully liquidated.”

Gullas, in a phone interview, said the proof that he could show was the list of beneficiaries in the first district of Cebu province.

In Nabcor’s record, Gullas gave P20 million to Aaron Foundation Philippines, P15 million to Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation and P5 million to Infinite Community Integrated Development Support Foundation.

As of press time, calls and text messages to other former Cebuano lawmakers were left unanswered.

Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar brushed aside claims she benefited from her PDAF when she was in Congress.

“I would like to assure the people that their congresswoman has put in not just P16 million but an amount more than P2 billion worth (of projects) in my six years in Congress,” Salazar said in a press briefing on Monday. “I assure you that I did not use the funds for other purposes.”—With reports from TJ A. Burgonio and Leila B. Salaverria in Manila, Carmel Loise Matus, Inquirer Visayas, and Julie S. Alipala,  Inquirer Mindanao

 

 

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TAGS: bogus NGOs, Congress, National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor), Philippines, pork barrel scam, Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)
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