CSOs under fire-A A +A
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
I LIVE, breathe, walk the talk of non-government organizations. I write and manage mountain-based forest conservation projects for the Broad Initiatives for Negros Development. Part of my work requires fund raising through grants, preparing narratives and reviewing financial reports.
I also sit on various boards: as the vice president of the Negrense organic federation of organic producers and retailers, the secretary of the Negros-based Social Enterprise Empowerment for Rural Development (SEED), and the Manila-based NTFP-Exchange Programme, and a former board trustee of the human rights organization Amnesty International and good governance circles such as Transparency International-Philippines.
In my professional life, I met members of various NGOs, got to exchange notes, and learn from others, their good points and bad points. It’s a small community among NGO workers here in Negros, where we get to hear the names and even the chismis on the grapevine.
However, I have never heard, much less encountered, the names of NGOs that came out from the pork scam. If these NGOs are hotshots in environmental, social and development work, they would have made waves among my rural development CSO circles.
Take the recent news article that mentioned Rep. Julio Ledesma IV and former Bacolod Rep. Anthony Gólez that they had channeled their pork barrel funds from 2010 and 2012 through NGOs.
Implicated are the Coprahan at Gulayan Foundation Inc. that reportedly got P1.26 million from Gólez, and the Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc., and P1.35 million from Ledesma.
Ledesma denied he signed the documents submitted by Kaisa’t Kaagapay Mo Foundation, Inc. in a project but skipped commenting on two other projects and on the documents submitted by Farmers Development Corp. and Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc.
Earlier, the Commission on Audit special report also cited former Rep. José Cárlos Lacson and the late Rep. Ignacio Arroyo who from 2007 to 2009 tapped questionable NGOs to funnel their pork barrel funds for various projects.
I could burn from foot-in-mouth disease, but the word “questionable” is most apt. I have never heard of these organizations, either here in Negros or Metro-Manila. Moreover, if these organizations are locally-based, I wonder why they would use Tagalog words. On the other hand, if they’re from somewhere else in the country, why would these congressmen choose outsiders from the Negros-based NGOs?
Besides, Ledesma and Lacson insist their signatures were forged on some of the documents submitted by the NGOs. Lacson denied signatures in an acceptance report and list of beneficiaries on documents submitted by Aaron Foundation.
These denials, however, stretches our credulity if only because the funds came from their pork barrels. It’s incomprehensible for fund managers to release funds and then completely ignore the grantees’ performance and financial reports.
In fact, ABS-CBN reported that residents of Barangay Salamanca in Toboso town in Ledesma’s first district said they had not received seedlings and livelihood training kits despite his allocating P10 million through the Kaisa’t Kaagapay Mo Foundation, Inc. in 2007 to 2009.
At a time when NGOs are having difficulties in accessing funds, it’s truly remarkable that organizations that we’ve never heard of are getting this development largesse. Either the NGO grapevine failed us with just even kutso-kutsos. Or these organizations are simply ghosts, or worse never existed.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 28, 2013.