Estrada PDAF puts gov't firm's ex-officials in hot water

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) denied the petition of two former top officials of the Zamboanga del Norte Agricultural College Rubber Estate Corporation (ZREC), saying they were liable for the illegal transfer of P4.713 million from former senator Jinggoy Estrada's Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

In a decision released last March, COA denied the petition of former ZREC president Salvador Salacup and treasurer Eduardo Nolasco that sought relief from accountability over the transaction, which was eventually disallowed.

The two ZREC officials said they acted in good faith when they allowed the project to push through, and claimed they did not have control over the funds, since the authority comes from their Board of Directors. They added that they merely relied on the endorsement from the office of Estrada and assumed that it had undergone the scrutiny of their subordinates in ZREC.

But COA said they could not merely pass on the blame to their staff since they were obliged to conduct their own assessment of the PDAF-funded project.

According to its decision, the P4.713 million was intended to be used for a program called "Increasing Farmers' Productivity through the Conduct of Livelihood Training" for farmers in Lamitan, Basilan. The project was supposed to be implemented by Pangkabuhayan Foundation Incorporated (PFI).

PFI managed to get over P201 million from the PDAFs of legislators from 2009 and 2010, according to an earlier COA report.

In the case of the Lamitan project, COA found that there were no supporting documents to prove that the project happened in the first place. The commission found, in particular, that the following were not submitted:

Back in 2013, COA issued a notice of suspension because of the lack of these documents. Salacup, Nolasco, and PFI were liable for the lack of documents. Over 4 months passed without the submission of documents, prompting COA to disallow the project and require the full refund of the money.

Estrada was arrested, but later allowed to post bail, over the alleged misuse of his PDAF. – Rappler.com