3 solons spent P57.6M in 3 years on crops, livelihood-A A +A
Friday, September 20, 2013
THREE Cebuano lawmakers set aside P57.6 million in three years for two government-owned corporations that are now under scrutiny for allegedly misusing pork barrel funds.
Records from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed that Ramon Durano VI, Eduardo Gullas and Nerissa Soon-Ruiz, in 2009 to 2011, gave part of their funds to the Natural Resource Development Center (NRDC) and the National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC).
In press statements, Durano and Gullas both said the portions of their funds that went to executive agencies and, in turn, to non-government organizations (NGOs) were used for projects and fully liquidated. Soon-Ruiz and her spokesperson did not respond to repeated calls.
So far, the Commission on Audit (COA) has not reported any irregularity in the 2010 to 2012 spending of the legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Funds.
But in 2007 to 2009, it questioned government-owned corporations, including NRDC and NLDC, for allegedly irregular uses of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
DBM records showed that when he was congressman, Durano gave P8 million of his PDAF in 2010 to the NLDC for livelihood projects in the fifth district of Cebu Province. These included meat processing, soap-making and candle-making.
In 2011, a total of P9 million of his PDAF went to the Philippine Forest Corp. (PFC), through the NRDC, to plant jatropha curcas in Barangay Upper Poblacion, Pilar, as well as Barangays Esperanza and Daan Paz in Poro.
The PFC, a subsidiary of the NRDC, was supposed to grow jatropha curcas in order for the country to take part in the biodiesel market.
Unlike the COA report for 2007 to 2009, the DBM report does not list which NGOs, if any, received the funds to implement projects.
Gullas, for his part, gave P10 million of his PDAF in 2009 to the PFC, also to plant jatropha in the first district of Cebu Province.
The same organization, according to the DBM, received P5 million from Gullas’ PDAF in 2010, while the NLDC received P10 million.
In 2011, P4 million from Gullas’ PDAF went to the NRDC again, the DBM records show.
This was supposed to go to the PFC, for the planting of jatropha curcas in Carcar, Talisay, Naga, Minglanilla and Sibonga.
In a press statement, former congressman Durano’s office said it was the PFC’s lookout to accredit the NGOs, disburse funds, implement projects and liquidate balances.
“We organized seminars and trainings participated by our farmers’ associations, point-persons and officials of LGUs (local government units) in the district, distribution of training kits, site inspection, distribution of seedlings and planting of the seedlings,” the statement said.
“As what we have explained earlier, the funding was released through Philippine Forest Corp. to implement our district’s flood control, biodiesel production and disaster
mitigation programs, which are national advocacies,” it added.
Gullas, in an earlier press statement, said the NGO that received from DENR some portions of his pork barrel funds “is not a dubious NGO but accredited by the DENR.”
He said it was DENR that released the funds to the NGO, which then distributed seeds and seedlings to farmer-beneficiaries. Both accomplishment and liquidation reports went to the DENR, he said.
Gullas also said the “greater bulk” of his PDAF went to scholarships and medical aid for the poor in the first district of Cebu Province.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma encouraged people to join the activities on Sept. 29 to call for the PDAF to be scrapped. He also encouraged them to offer alternatives.
“After scrapping the pork barrel, what to do next? The rally is a way of discussing responses and the way to act,” he said.
Palma said the Cebu Coalition Against the Pork Barrel System will collect suggestions and submit these to the proper authorities.
“The barangays would know what they need. They could bring these to the proper government agency that will act on them,” he said.
The coalition is composed of members from various sectors, including the Movement for a Livable Cebu, Cebu Citizens Involvement and Maturation in People’s Empowerment and Liberation or the local church’s election watchdog, the Dilaab Foundation Inc. and the Archdiocesan Discernment Group.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 20, 2013.