Explain, Secretary Alcala tells Asec. Agawin in pork scam
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said on Friday that he had asked a department official to explain why she was being implicated again in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Alcala said he had issued a memo to Assistant Agriculture Secretary Ophelia Agawin to comment on allegations that she badgered staff at the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor), which is supervised by the agriculture department, to release P323 million to dubious foundations identified with Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in connivance with lawmakers.
In an affidavit submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman on March 6, Rhodora Mendoza and Vicente Cacal, former president for finance and general services chief of Nabcor, respectively, said Agawin pressured them to release funds from the PDAF to three of Napoles’ foundations that had been selected by Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. for their pork projects.
They said a total of P323 million was released to the three foundations from 2007 to 2009.
Mendoza said Agawin, then the agriculture department’s director for finance, called her frequently to release checks to Masaganang Ani ng Magsasaka Foundation Inc., Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc., and People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc.
Alcala said he told Agawin to “submit a report” by next Monday.
“She said she would do so,” he said.
This is the second time that Alcala has asked Agawin to explain her implication in the pork barrel scam.
In July last year, Alcala asked Agawin to explain why pork barrel scam whistle-blower Merlina P. Suñas claimed that the Department of Agriculture served as a conduit for the release of funds from the PDAF to Napoles’ foundations.
By October, Agawin had gone on leave, although department officials said this was “due to family medical needs.”
Agawin was in charge of accreditations for groups that wanted to engage in agriculture-related projects. Among the groups that made the cut were foundations that had been set up by Napoles.
She was relieved of functions related to accreditation and implementation of pork barrel-funded projects. Except that, she continued to work in the department as assistant secretary for finance.
Asked how he felt about Agawin being implicated again in the pork barrel scam, Alcala said: “I also want to know why. I myself, my name has been dragged into controversies five times or so.”
Should she go on leave?
Asked whether Agawin should on leave again, Alcala said, “It is difficult to prejudge.”
He said Agawin should be given the opportunity to explain.
“Let us wait for her response,” Alcala said.
Napoles, Senators Enrile, Estrada and Revilla and more than 30 former members of the House of Representatives and former heads of government agencies are being investigated by the Ombudsman on charges of plunder over the pork barrel scam.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.