'P3-billion' lawmaker has only 1 car-A A +A
Thursday, August 22, 2013
HE WAS catapulted to fame several years back when, instead of riding a car to his office at the Batasang Pambansa, he rode a mountain bike.
He was then the simplest and one of the poorest congressmen who prefer wearing sando and shorts over pants and barong.
He also was famous for his calamansi backyard garden inside the Batasan compound and was memorable when he carried ballot boxes during the presidential race tabulation at the House in 2004.
Manuel "Way Kurat" Zamora was congressman of the 1st District of Compostela Valley from 2001-2010. He took a respite from politics for three years and returned as vice governor of Compostela Valley this year.
Last week, Zamora again hogged the headlines after he was accused by the Commission on Audit (COA) of receiving at least P3 billion from the National Government for his Priority Development Assistance Fund in 2007.
This was vehemently denied by Zamora.
Way Kurat maintained his innocence and his willingness to go to jail if proven that he pocketed even a single centavo from his PDAF for the past nine years that he was congressman.
Zamora said that nothing much has changed from his lifestyle before and after his stint in Congress. He said that in the 33 years of his political life, his only dream was to have his own cockfighting arena which he already did.
Until now, he said, he only has one personal car which is a P200,000-surplus vehicle. Zamora said that back in his Congress years, then Rep. Mark Jimenez offered to give him a sports utility vehicle but he declined the offer for fear that he would be accused of graft and corruption.
COA's proof is the Special Allotment Release Order (Saro) No. A-07-09539 dated December 11, 2007 which the government agency claimed was allotted for Zamora's district.
It turned out though that there are two Saro's with the same number. The first one is dated December 10, 2007 with the amount of P500,000 and was allocated for the construction of a multi-purpose building at the Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City.
The other one is the P3-billion Saro and was allocated to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Central Office for preventive maintenance of national roads and bridges all over the country.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. admitted that DBM made a mistake in including Zamora's allocation of P500,000 from his PDAF in the same Saro it issued for the P3-billion project of the DPWH.
Clerical error was the government agency's excuse for implicating Zamora's name in what COA Commissioner Grace Pulido-Tan termed as "kahindik-hindik na anomalya" in the pork barrel.
Pulido-Tan, in making a case that the entire PDAF system was found to be porous, inefficient, and prone to graft and corruption, singled out, at one point of her presentation, Zamora's P3-billion in pork barrel fund during the audited years.
Compostela Valley Rep. Ma. Carmen Zamora however said that despite admission of clerical error by DBM, the damage has been done. She also questioned COA for their failure to coordinate with her father or the congressional office to verify their figures.
Rep. Zamora said that even her children had already been affected by COA's wrongful accusation against her father.
"Even as I am certain that the truth will bear us out, as a daughter, I have been deeply hurt by the carelessness in the preparation, handling and dissemination of this report. My father was never notified of the audit, nor did the COA even attempt to coordinate its audit through my office even though it is no secret that I am my father’s successor. The way this story has been reported without regard for what the data meant was ruthlessly damaging," said Rep. Zamora in her FB post.
"All this pain and suffering has been brought upon our family because of COA's ignorance and blunder. Even when my father is vindicated, our family will forever be unjustly associated with blind and baseless allegations of misuse of public funds. The damage has been done, and no amount of auditing and rectification by the COA can ever truly repair the humiliation, anguish and suffering our family has gone through because of its incompetence," she added.
In an interview at his farm in Nabunturan, Manuel "Way Kurat" Zamora said he would not demand any apology from COA for their blunder nor is he considering filing libel charges against COA Commissioner Pulido-Tan.
He said it is really COA's job to be a fault-finder in all government transactions.
He asked the agency though to be more thorough in their investigation next time and properly coordinate with concerned public officials and offices to prevent another blunder.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 23, 2013.