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Ombudsman trains guns on bogus NGOs

/ 03:32 AM June 24, 2014

Office of the Ombudsman. PHOTO from www.ombudsman.gov.ph

MANILA, Philippines–With the arrest of certain principal players in the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles, the Office of the Ombudsman has begun building its case against other officials who used bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and ghost projects to allegedly pillage the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Field investigators of the Ombudsman have filed malversation charges against former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and two other former

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Arroyo allies—Representatives Rodolfo Antonino and Anthony Miranda—for funneling close to P40 million in pork barrel funds into NGOs.

The first batch of corruption cases filed in the Office of the Ombudsman is an offshoot of the Commission on Audit (COA) special audit of PDAF disbursement from 2007 to 2009 that found that P4 billion went to 72 NGOs other than NGOs identified with Napoles that cornered P2.157 billion.

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“A field investigation was ordered conducted on the PDAF scam as early as July 2013 when Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales motu proprio initiated a fact-finding investigation in response to news reports on the ‘pork barrel scam’ exposé.

“Several investigation teams were subsequently created to expedite the investigation by gathering numerous documents and interviewing hundreds of witnesses nationwide based on the COA Special Audits Office Report No. 2012-03,” the Ombudsman said in a statement.

The Ombudsman accused Yap and Antonino, and four National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) officials—Alan Javellana, Encarnita Cristina Munsod, Rhodora Mendoza and Maria Ninez Guañizo—of conspiring with Marilou Antonio, president of Buhay Mo Mahal Ko Foundation Inc., and Carmelita Barredo, general manager of CC Barredo Publishing House, for the release of P15 million of Antonino’s PDAF supposedly for livelihood projects in Nueva Ecija province seven years ago.

Based on its investigation, Yap agreed to Antonino’s request to use Nabcor in facilitating the transfer of his funds to Antonio and Barredo even though Nabcor was not authorized as an implementing agent for pork projects in the 2007 General Appropriations Act.

The request was apparently a mere formality as Nabcor had already signed a deal with Antonio and Barredo days before Yap approved the transfer of Antonino’s allocation to Nabcor.

The Ombudsman reported that Antonio agreed to buy from Barredo 7,275 sets of livelihood technology kits at P2,000 each for a total of P14.55 million for distribution to the towns of San Isidro, General Tinio, Cabiao, Jaen, Peñaranda and San Leonardo in Nueva Ecija.

“The project is nonexistent based on on-site validation … (A) number of concerned city and municipal officials attested that their respective local government units did not receive the livelihood sets nor were there records relative thereto,” the Ombudsman said.

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No liquidation

The Ombudsman said Antonino and the Antonio-Barredo group had yet to submit a liquidation report listing down the beneficiaries of reading materials seven years after the government money was disbursed.

In Miranda’s case, the former lawmaker was charged with conniving with seven Technology Resource Center (TRC) officials—Antonio Ortiz, Dennis Cunanan, Marivic Jover, Belina Concepcion, Francisco Figura, Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana and Consuelo Lilian Reyes Espiritu—to channel P21 million of his PDAF to his own NGO, Aksyon Makamasa Foundation Inc. (Amfi) in 2007.

The Ombudsman said Miranda acted as incorporator, director and chair of Amfi based on the NGO’s filing in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2007.

Miranda’s livelihood project proposal was processed, approved and funded in less than a week from Feb. 9 to Feb. 13 in 2007.

Irregularities

Ombudsman investigators reported that the contracts that covered Miranda’s fund releases “were filled with irregularities, such as lack of identified beneficiaries, lack of standards for project implementation and project acceptance, lack of project cost estimates, one lump-sum payment instead of a schedule of release of payment, among other items required under the COA circular.”

SEC records showed that Amfi’s only source of income was government donations. The probers said Miranda failed to provide records that Amfi had completed its projects.

Except for Ortiz, who resigned four years ago, the six incumbent TRC officials were also slapped with administrative charges for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Amfi officers Domingo Mamauag and Edison Sabio were also included in the charge sheet.

In the COA report, Antonio was identified as controlling at least five other bogus NGOs—Ikaw at Ako Foundation Inc., Gabay para sa Masa Foundation Inc., Kasangga sa Magandang Buhay Foundation Inc., Gabay sa Magandang Bukas Foundation Inc. and Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc.—that probers believe belonged to the pork scam ring of Godofredo Roque.

Based on COA findings, Roque’s Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc. received P526.679 million in pork from 2007 to 2009.

Given to students

The COA report noted that CC Barredo sold P541.72 million worth of livelihood manuals (consisting of four to five volumes of 100 pages each priced at P2,000 to P3,500 per kit) that were “already common knowledge to an ordinary farmer.”

The audit agency said some of the manuals were carelessly given to high school students.

Aside from Miranda, the COA report also identified five other incumbent and former local government officials who channeled their pork funds to NGOs that they owned: former Sen. Edgardo J. Angara (Kalusugan ng Bata, Karunungan ng Bayan Foundation Inc.), Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing (Kabaka Foundation Inc.), former Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor Jr. (Matias Defensor Sr. Foundation Inc.), former Bulacan Rep. Ma. Victoria R. Sy-Alvarado (Jose Sy Alvarado Foundation Inc.), Malabon Vice Mayor Jeannie N. Sandoval (Pamamalakaya Foundation Inc.).

Also named in the report was Anthony C. Miranda and his Aksyon Makamasa Foundation Inc.

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TAGS: bogus NGOs, fake NGOs, ghost projects, Graft and Corruption, malversation, Ombudsman, Philippines, pork barrel scam, Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)
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