Senate resolution calls for hearings on 'missing' farm-to-market roads

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Monday, September 19, 2011


SENATOR Francis Pangilinan filed a resolution Monday for the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, which he chairs, to hold hearings on P7.5 billion that the Department of Agriculture (DA) released for farm-to-market roads that may have never been built.

"The funds amounting to P7.5 billion were allegedly released without a program of work, and the newly constructed farm-to-market roads could not be identified," his resolution read.

Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the Senate Oversight Committee on
Public Expenditures, disclosed the allegedly anomalous projects in a radio interview Sunday.

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He told reporters Monday that "a substantial portion of the P7.5 billion could not be accounted for." He said some roads may not have been built, or were built shorter and with shoddy materials. He said the committee already knows the areas where the farm-to-market roads were supposedly built but is "not yet prepared to make it public as we are still in the preliminary stage."

He also said that he would refer the issue to the Senate blue ribbon committee and the committee on agriculture. Even as Drilon said this, Pangilinan was already preparing a resolution of his own.

"If found true that no farm-to-market road was constructed when this amount was released from January to June 2010, then those responsible for this anomaly must be held accountable and must explain themselves to those who toil their farms relentlessly yet remain below the poverty line," Pangilinan said Monday.

He added the Commission on Audit has also reported that money for rural access roads in Maguindanao "were mostly spent" for fuel purchases at gasoline stations owned by the Ampatuan clan whom he described as "President (Gloria Macapagal) Arroyo’s known allies."

"This is plunder. Our people were deprived of the opportunity to improve their lives with the help of these much-needed roads," he said. Pangilinan said he might invite Bohol Representative Arthur Yap, Agriculture secretary when the funds were released, to hearings at the Senate.

Out of inter-parliamentary courtesy, members of either House of Congress do not issue subpoenas against members of another House.

Recently, the Senate blue ribbon committee invited Negros Occidental Representative Ignacio Arroyo to hearings on helicopters that the national police bought as brand-new but that witnesses said had been pre-owned to the Arroyos. He was urged to explain discrepancies in the lease agreement he presented to show his family did not own the helicopters.

When he refused to attend, however, the Senate kept the invitation open but did not issue a subpoena.

Yap has reportedly said money for the roads would have been withheld from regional Agriculture department offices if the proposals lacked programs of work.

According to the Department of Agriculture website, a program of work includes information on how long a project will take before it is completed depending on daily output and "on the available labor in the area."

A sample program of work provided on the DA website lists specific tasks, the equipment and workers needed to complete the task, and how long it will take to complete.

"We do not expect him to admit this but the fact is it's on record that P7.5 billion was released," Drilon said. (Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)

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