Arthur Yap, 2 ex-congressmen face PDAF scam charges

MANILA, Philippines – Former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, who is now congressman of Bohol, 2 former congressmen, and 14 others are facing charges of diverting millions worth of pork barrel funds to questionable non-governmental organizations (NGOs). 

The NGOs they used as dummies, according to a press release from the Office of the Ombudsman, were outside the network controlled by known pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles. (READ: Almost half of PDAF goes to favored NGOs)

Ombudsman investigators have filed separate formal complaints against two groups: one that includes former Nueva Ecija Representative Rodolfo Antonino, Yap, and 5 others; the other composed of former Isabela Representative Anthony Miranda and 9 others.

Yap was the agriculture secretary during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The diverted lawmakers' funds were coursed through government corporations attached to the Department of Agriculture.

The 17 respondents face formal charges for malversation of public funds and violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Nueva Ecija's Rodolfo Antonino

Antonino is accused of using P14.5 million ($ 331,000) of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)  for a "ghost" livelihood project that has never been liquidated.

The project, intended for the 4th district of Nueva Ecija, was covered by a fund allocation under Special Allotment Order (SARO) No. ROCS-07-02898.

The first anomaly spotted by the Commission on Audit (COA) was Antonino's request to then DA Secretary Yap to transfer his PDAF to the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) even if it was not listed as one of the implementing agencies of PDAF in the General Appropriations Act of 2007.

NABCOR was given the project through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by Yap and NABCOR president Alan Javellana. Records show, however, that 2 days before this, NABCOR had already entered into a MOA with NGO Buhay Mo Mahal Ko Foundation Incorporated (BMMKFI) through its president Marilou Antonio. (READ: Collusion? Solons pick NGOs that get PDAF)

BMMKFI has so far not been linked to alleged pork barrel queen Napoles. (READ: PORK TALES: A story of corruption)

The P14.5 million in PDAF was released to BMMKFI in 2 tranches: 90% in March 2007 and then 10% in April through checks signed by Javellana and NABCOR Director for Financial Services Rhodora Mendoza.

The funds were used to purchase 7,275 sets of Livelihood Technology Kits exclusively from publishing company CC Barredo at P2,000 ($46) a set.

Based on a list of project beneficiaries, certified correct by Antonino, all the kits were supposedly distributed in Gapan City and the towns of Cabiao, General Tinio, Jaen, San Isidro, San Leonardo, and Peñaranda.

But the Ombudsman complaint says the local government officials of these places never received the kits or have any record of them at all.

The COA said the project has not been liquidated. BMMFKI has so far only indicated the total number of kits without a list of actual beneficiaries or a liquidation report.

Isabela's Anthony Miranda

Former Isabela Representative Miranda, meanwhile, is accused of channeling funds to an NGO which he himself controls.

In February 2007, the congressman requested the release of P10 million ($228,000) of his PDAF to Aksyon Makamasa Foundation Incorporated (AMFI) which, based on the organization's General Information Sheet for 2007 filed at the Securities and Exchange Commission, lists Miranda as incorporator, director, and chairman.

The amount of P9.5 million ($217,000) was thus released through a MOA between AMFI and Technology Research Center (TRC) on March 9, 2007, for agro-farming and livestock seminars, distribution of farming seeds, and livelihood training materials.

Three days after, Miranda requested for another P11 million ($251,000) to be released to AMFI for similar activities. The amount of P10.56 million ($241,000) was released.

The two MOAs between AMFI and TRC were full of irregularities, according to Ombudsman investigators. 

The MOAs lacked a list of identified beneficiaries, guidelines for project implementation, and project cost estimates, among others.

Going against a COA circular, the MOAs also involved the release of one lump sum instead of a scheduled release of payments in batches.

The TRC also did not follow COA rules on NGO accrediation, while AMFI failed to submit 3-year financial statements required by COA, according to the complaint.

The financial statements would have ensured that AMFI was in good financial condition and did not depend entirely on just one source of funds. But SEC records show that AMFI sourced funds only from government assistance. It also did not fulfill SEC requirements from 2007 to the present.

Despite COA letters since 2012, AMFI has not proven it actually implemented multi-million-peso projects.

In cahoots?

For suspected involvement in the scam, NABCOR officials and officers of BMMKFI are set to undergo preliminary investigation along with Antonino and Yap.

These officials are:

Miranda will undergo prelimary investigation along with the following TRC and AMFI officials:

Incumbent public officials Cunanan, Jover, Concepcion, Lacsamana and Espiritu also face administrative charges for Grave Misconduct, Serious Dishonesty, and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service. (READ: P348-M senators' pork misused by TRC in Cunanan's time

Some of the officials named respondents in these new cases are already facing charges for the diversion of lawmakers' PDAF to NGOs controlled by Napoles. They are NABCOR's Javellana, NABCOR's Mendoza, TRC's Ortiz, TRC's Cunanan, TRC's Figura and TRC's Jover. – Pia Ranada/