Former solons from Cebu linked to scam?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014


FIVE former congressmen from Cebu are among the 79 members of the House of Representatives named in a Commission on Audit (COA) report as having channeled their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel through the state-operated National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor). The money went to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs), some of which were put up by the alleged PDAF scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

Nabcor, which is under the Department of Agriculture, was the favored implementing agency of those involved in the P10-billion PDAF scam, which includes Sens. Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla. The three senators are facing charges before the Ombudsman.

A total of P392 million were “downloaded” by the three senators from their PDAF from 2007 to 2009 and given as financial assistance to NGOs formed by Napoles. Former senator Edgardo Angara was also named in the COA report as having extended assistance to an NGO, but it was not among those created by Napoles.

The five former solons from Cebu named in the latest COA report are Tony Cuenco, Eduardo Gullas, Antonio Yapha Jr., Pablo John Garcia and Red Durano.

Cuenco gave P24 million to Gabay at Pag-asa ng Masa Foundation. Gullas extended around P20 million in assistance to Aaron Foundation Phils, P5 million to Infinite Community Integrated Development Foundation and P15 million to the Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation.

Yapha gave P10 million to Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation while his successor, Pablo John Garcia, extended P10 million to Kaagapay Magpakailanman Foundation. Durano also gave P10 million to Kaagapay Magpakailanman Foundation.

Gullas explained to me few months back that Infinite Community Integrated Development Foundation is a group organized by farmers in the mountain barangays of Minglanilla.

It provides agricultural products, like fertilizers and seeds, to its members.

But when I asked some of the group’s members about the assistance, they said they only received leaflets and printed guides on how to raise hogs and agricultural products.

Are these congressmen also involved in the hanky-panky involving their pork barrel allocations? It seems that there is a pattern in the channeling of funds through Nabcor.

It just so happens that no whistleblower has testified that they received kickbacks or commissions from the pork allocations. But would this government stop investigating these lawmakers just because they are no longer congressmen?

Some of the lawmakers in the COA list are identified with the current administration.

Will the Department of Justice (DOJ) conduct further investigation on the issue and possibly file charges, like what it is doing to Enrile, Estrada and Revilla?

According to Malacañang, there will be no sacred cows in the probe. Even if some of those involved are administration allies, they will be prosecuted if evidence warrants.

But how come until now the DOJ has not filed any charges against former customs commissioner Ruffy Biazon, who was linked to the scam when he was congressman?

When Biazon's name was mentioned, he resigned from the Bureau of Customs. At least he has delicadeza. But what about Tesda secretary general Joel Villanueva, who was also named in the COA report? Why didn’t Malacañang fire him?

Is there compartmentalized treatment of those involved? If this is the case, where is the “matuwid na daan” there? Gipili-pili lang ang angayan nga gukdon? Abi nako ning gobyernoha “walang kinikilingan at walang pinoprotektahan.” Naa man diay.

(bobby.nalzaro@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 19, 2014.

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