For dragging his name into pork scam, Pimentel files raps vs 4 DA execs
MANILA, Philippines—Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Tuesday filed criminal and administrative charges against four agriculture officials for dragging him into the anomalous release of funds intended for marginal farmers under the Department of Agriculture (DA).
The release of at least P10 million for farming beneficiaries in Surigao del Sur was made under the name of Senator Pimentel, who claimed he had no part in the transaction.
The agriculture officials facing charges are: Antonio Fleta, undersecretary for administration and finance; Delia Ladera, supervising administrative officer; Charie Sarah Saquing, department chief accountant; and Telma Tolentino, officer-in-charge, budget division.
Pimentel claimed his signature was forged in a 2012 memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed between Fleta and Surigao Del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel.
According to the MOA, Pimentel was allocated the funds for marginal farmers in Surigao Del Sur.
Pimentel said that he wrote to Fleta about the anomalous release. But Fleta said it was the senator who requested the funds from the DA.
Pimentel allegedly wrote to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala last October 2012 “requesting the release of P30 million of the Agro Industrial Enhancement through organic farming for high value crops…”
Of the P30 million, at least P10 million funds were intended for Surigao del Sur.
Fleta told Pimentel that the Surigao governor asked the senator for a P10-million allocation.
“The letter is falsified. It is a fake. The signature in the letter is a forgery… The letterhead is not the letterhead of the official stationery of my office,” Pimentel claimed.
The anomalous release of DA funds was also mentioned during a September 26, 2013 Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the pork barrel scam, according to the affidavit.
Principal whistleblower Benhur Luy said during the hearing that the MOA was prepared in the office of Undersecretary Fleta.
Luy then said Napoles talked to DA Assistant Secretary Ophelia Agawin about the transaction. Agawin is tagged as Napoles’ conduit in the department.
Asked about the involvement of Senator Pimentel in the scam, Luy said they used the name of senators on the letter request for funds release.
“That MOA was made in the office of USec Fleta. That time, Napoles was talking to Ophelia Agawin. From there, the MOA was made because there is a letter of request, which is based on the name of a senator,” Luy testified in Filipino before the Senate.
In the MOA, Fleta attributed the release of the funds to a Special Allotment Release Order or Saro. Pimentel claimed there was no Saro to release the funds.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer had reported that John Lim, an employee of Napoles, was designed head of the bogus NGO that handled the P10 million released by DA to Pimentel.
Pimentel said the respondents are liable for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code and Norms of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials.
“Respondents have committed acts of dishonesty when they falsely issued certifications entered into a MOA based on a falsified letter… Worse, the respondents performed acts leading to the illegal diversion and release of public funds with the knowledge that such release was not supported by any Saro,” Pimentel said.
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