ARMM execs scored for not stopping Ampatuans
Senators scrutinizing the proposed budget for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for 2012 ended up chastising its current leaders for their apathy despite being privy to the fund irregularities committed by the Ampatuan family when the region was under their control.
As a result, the senators said they did not regret calling for the postponement of the ARMM elections scheduled for last month, saying that the ARMM experience was an indication of its failure as an experiment in regional autonomy.
ARMM officials submitted a budget of P12.468 billion for 2012, the highest so far in the region’s 20-year existence.
Senators initially questioned how previous allocations to the region were utilized following findings of irregularities involving billions of pesos.
During the budget hearing, finance committee chairman Senator Franklin Drilon cited a special review by the Commission on Audit for 2008-2009 which uncovered the irregularities.
Drilon said that aside from P12.468 billion, the ARMM was asking for an allocation from various agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Social Welfare and Development amounting to P11.5 billion, an internal revenue allotment of P14.2 billion and P560 million from the pork barrel of various legislators.
“We know that the total appropriation for ARMM is no less than P38.759 billion,” Drilon said.
Cause for concern
The senators admitted that approving the ARMM’s budget for 2012 was a cause for concern following the “mind-boggling” discoveries by the COA on how the two former ARMM governors, Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son Zaldy, had handled some P5.6 billion in funds during their respective administrations.
“For example,” Drilon said, “DPWH-ARMM had P1.486 billion in projects considered spurious. Cash advances in the hundreds of millions could not be accounted for. To quote the COA, payments amounting to P1.123 billion to 112 suppliers or contractors were either not supported by documents or could be considered spurious.”
“They were also withdrawing cash as if there was no tomorrow… from January 2008 to September 2009 during the Ampatuan regime, there was a total of P1.862 billion in cash advances,” he noted.
Drilon also said that checks amounting to P98.25 million were encashed in one day, which COA found highly improbable considering that the purported payees were from different municipalities and provinces.
“This is plunder,” Drilon concluded.
Passing the buck
“But while the acting governor admitted he did not do anything, now that the Ampatuans are in jail, why have they still not done anything? They merely passed the problem on to Department of Interior and Local Government when they are supposed to be an autonomous region,” Drilon said.
At one point, Drilon asked ARMM Acting Governor Ansaruddin Adiong, who was the ARMM vice governor during the term of Zaldy Ampatuan, why he did not do anything to stop the anomalies.
Adiong replied that he only did what his department was tasked to do.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile also wondered why the legislative assembly did not stop the anomalies.
But ARMM Speaker Roonie Sinsuat said he only assumed office last year.