by Cong B. Corrales
TO THE ROUSING APPLAUSE OF business leaders, Commission on Audit chairperson Ma. Gracia M. Pulido-Tan said the COA will release another series of “explosive audit exposés” on the multi-billion peso Malampaya Fund next month and that COA report will again involve “familiar names” and government-owned and controlled companies (GOCCs).
As well, Pulido-Tan announced that the COA’s audit on the use of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), otherwise known as pork barrel, for the years 2010 to 2012 is already ready for release to the public.
Unlike the previous COA audit that Pulido-Tan had made public, this new round of COA reports would involve pork apportioned out during the presidency of Benigno S. Aquino III. President Aquino had made anti-corruption the battlecry for his 2010 presidential campaign.
“(The COA report) involves the same names like NABCOR (National Agribusiness Corporation) and ZREC (Znac Rubber Estate Corporation,)” Pulido-Tan said in a speech delivered at the 3rd Integrity Summit at the Shangrila Hotel in Makati.
On the latest pork barrel audits, Pulido-Tan said they have already uploaded the newest reports in the COA website at www.coa.gov.ph.
The COA is looking at how the Arroyo administration spent some P23.6 billion from the Malampaya Funds. The Fund represents royalties from the operation of the Malampaya gas project off Palawan province. The Department of Finance is supposed to manage the funds for energy projects, although then-President Gloria Arroyo reportedly tapped into the Fund for other concerns.
Pulido-Tan also told participants in the Integrity Summit that the COA had already noticed a disturbing pattern in the spending of pork barrel funds even before the pork barrel scandal broke out with the testimony of whistleblower Benhur Luy.
“By March, we finished the special audit report. I knew it was explosive,” Pulido-Tan said. “2010 pa po nakikita na namin ang pattern.”
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales however had her own explosion to make in the same summit. Morales told business leaders she was taken out of context when news reports came out that it would take her a year to go through the documentary evidence on the pork barrel scam submitted by the COA to her office.
“You are in for a surprise,” Morales said. “It is going to take much less (time).”
Her statement was met with cheers and applause from the business community and summit participants.
Sponsored by the Makati Business Club and the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, the Integrity Initiative brings together businessmen and civil service organizations with the view of discussing issues of honesty, transparency, and integrity, with the aim of strengthening ethical standards in society. The summit also aims to level the playing field for businesses by asking business leaders to commit to ethical practices and good corporate governance.
In the same summit, Senate President Franklin Drilon said that while the pork barrel scandal “shook the very core of government,” it also spurred “well-meaning reforms.”
Chief among these, he said, was the determination of some legislators to pass the Freedom of Information bill. The bill was approved by the Senate committee on public information and mass media this week, and may be reported to the plenary by next week.
“One of the most significant bills is the FOI, (which will be) crucial in the fight against corruption. The Senate will pass FOI before the year is over,” Drilon said to the applause of the participants.
On Monday, plunder charges were filed with the Office of the Ombudsman against Senators Ramon Revilla Jr, Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile, and several other congressmen for allegedly pocketing millions of pesos in pork barrel funds that were channeled to ghost nongovernmental organizations endorsed allegedly by these legislators.