Ex-DA chief told to explain pork barrel funds misuse-A A +A
Friday, March 1, 2013
MANILA -- Former Agriculture Secretary now Bohol Representative Arthur Yap should explain why the millions of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of some senators went to a bogus non-government organization years back, a lawmaker who was tagged in the controversy said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, who called for the probe on Thursday, said there is a need to unmask those who benefited from this scheme.
Questions were raised on the use of the PDAF following a newspaper article, quoting a Commission on Audit report, alleged that P195 million in PDAF of three senators including Estrada and a former member of the House of Representatives were channelled to a fake NGO Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc. (PFI).
Estrada said PFI was "strongly endorsed" by the agriculture department, which handed the money to ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC). ZREC then released it to PFI.
"At that time, lawmakers were informed by the agriculture department that this NGO is a legitimate organization and that our pork barrel will be used to benefit thousands of farmers," he said.
In its report, COA said PFI president Petronila Balmaceda had not coordinated with the ZREC to be able to settle issues such as fabricated documents and forged signatures it submitted for the liquidation of funds.
Also, the confirmation letter sent by the audit team through a registered mail on February 9, 2012 was returned to COA for reason that PFI had already moved out on the address indicated.
"Considering that PFI failed to comply with the audit recommendations and had not coordinated for almost two years now, it is high time that the (ZNAC) management pursue the filing of appropriate legal action against PFI,” said Estrada.
In light of the controversy, Senator Francis Escudero said lawmakers have the responsibility to be transparent with their PDAF allocations.
"At the same time, we have a responsibility to protect the integrity and the reputation of the Senate as an institution and as a pillar of our democracy. This should be non-negotiable," he said.
COA is expected to release soon a full report on the use of senators’ PDAF. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)