MOST OF THE LEGISLATORS implicated in the pork barrel scandal had personally signed the liquidation reports to indicate that the money had been received or used by the target beneficiaries.
This, even though the projects were never really implemented because the non-governmental organizations to which the pork funds went were actually bogus.
This was one of several issues that emerged during the second hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigating the pork barrel scandal, where billions of pesos from the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) were allegedly funneled by government line agencies to bogus NGOs that were chosen by several Congressmen and Senators.
During the hearing, former officials from the Znac Rubber Estate Corporation (ZREC) and the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) were grilled by Senators on the identity of the legislators who chose the fake NGOs. ZREC and NABCOR had channeled a total of P1.5 billion to fake NGOs that were allegedly set up by middleman Janet Lim-Napoles to corner the pork funds.
Rhodora Mendoza, the former vice president for finance of NABCOR, identified the legislators who channeled funds to the Napoles NGOs as Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada, and former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile; and Congressmen Conrado Estrella III, Erwin Chiongbian, Rodolfo Plaza, Victor Ortega, Samuel Dangwa, Edgardo Valdez, Mark Douglas Cagas, Rizalina Lanete, and Arthur Pinggoy.
These legislators chose the Social Development Program for Farmers Foundations Inc. as a beneficiary for millions of pesos of their pork barrel funds. The Foundation was later found to be fake.
As well, ZREC’s former head, Assistant Secretary Salvador Salacup, said Senators Estrada, Enrile, and Revilla also endorsed the Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc., which also turned out to be questionable. Congressmen Edgar Valdes and Mariano Michael Velarde also endorsed the NGO.
During the grilling, Mendoza and Salacup said that the liquidation reports were “certified correct by the legislators themselves,” indicating that the legislators had confirmed that the money had been spent on the chosen beneficiaries.
“In one letter, I saw a letter from office of Senator Enrile but signed by Lucila Reyes. In that letter, it was mentioned she was an authorized representative of Mr Evangelista would be representing the office. There were communications from the office of Senator Estrada wherein he signed himself,” Salacup said adding that Senator Revilla also signed the endorsement to one project.
“Most of the legislators, they signed themselves. But for the few legislators, they assigned somebody from their office,” Mendoza concurred during a grilling by Senator Sergio Osmena III.
Another disturbing finding by the Blue Ribbon Committee was the lack of due diligence on the part of government line agencies in releasing millions of pesos in public funds to private organizations without even a cursory background check.
Allan Javellana, the former President of NABCOR, claimed he was “shocked and surprised” upon learning that the NGOs funded through their GOCC were bogus. Many of the Senators however were unconvinced with Javellana’s statements, saying that it was highly unlikely for a responsible government official to be so careless with public funds.
Javellana was also grilled by the Senators on his associations with Napoles and her former right-hand-man-turned whistleblower, Benhur Luy. Javellana told the Senators he had met with Napoles twice in a coffeeshop at the Discovery Suites to brief her on NABCOR projects she could tap into. The Senators wondered how Javellana could judge the legitimacy of Napoles’ NGOs based on just two meetings in a coffee shop.
“First, I was really shocked and surprised. But to the best of our knowledge, we really checked the documents. Siguro sir, naloko kami,” said Javellana.
He explained to Guingona that they follow the same format as ZREC where the first step was to validate the NGOs’ claim through paper documentation.
“We checked their (Securities and Exchange Commission) registration, business permits, work on financial plan,” Javellana said.
However, when Guingona pressed if they ever visited the addresses, both Javellana and Salacup answered no.
“There was a failure in validation,” remarked Senator Bam Aquino during the hearing. “Paper validation is not enough. We are talking about huge amounts of money. Walang excuse.”
The Senators pointed out that the government line agencies should have at least visited the offices of the NGOs to check on their physical capabilities, or interviewed their staffmembers. In fact, these line agencies collect a three percent commission from the NGOs for the purpose of monitoring their implementation of these projects.
“May pera na binibigay sa inyo para magmonitor. Ano ba naman na ang isang staff ninyo pumunta dun para mag check? If you did that, wala sana tayong iskandalo ngayon,” Aquino said.