Former Nabcor execs tip De Lima about P5-B agri funds misuse

MANILA, Philippines – Two former officials of state firm National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor), who earlier implicated media practitioners as being recipients of "payoffs," have more beans to spill.

Rhodora Mendoza and Vic Cacal on Tuesday, March 25, met with Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima and outlined what they knew about the alleged misuse of P5-billion worth of agriculture funds in 2009.

Their lawyer, Levito Baligod, said the fund irregularities under the Department of Agriculture (DA) in 2009 involved 9 projects under the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) rice program and totalled to P5 billion. The initial batch of affidavits for DOJ submission zooms in on one of those 9 projects amounting to P300 million, he said. 

Mendoza and Cacal earlier identified TV5 news anchor Erwin Tulfo and dzBB's Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang as having received P245,535 and P245,535 respectively from Nabcor corporate accounts also in 2009. 

In an interview after the closed-door meeting, De Lima said "2 complete sets" of affidavits in relation to one of the 9 projects were submitted to her. The first project was sourced from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers, she said.

Baligod stressed prior to their meeting, however, that the P5 billion in DA funds allegedly plundered in 2009 were not PDAF-funded, but taken wholly from GMA rice program funds.

Nabcor is a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) under the DA. 

Alleged misuse

De Lima said she was given an "overview" by the Nabcor officials of the 8 other anomalous projects that Baligod pertained to.

Among the anomalies in the DA that were cited were: overpricing, false quantities of products purchased, technical studies supposedly by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that were never carried out and payments for which were deposited to a personal account.

Baligod refused to name who were implicated by Mendoza and Cacal but said they were "high enough" in the DA at the time of the plunder.  

The alleged fund misuse occurred during the presidency of now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whose administration initiated the GMA rice program. The agriculture secretary at the time was Arthur Yap.

The counsel for the whistleblowers, however, clarified that it is ultimately up to the DOJ who it will identify as respondents in the possible complaint to be filed stemming from the new revelation.

Baligod added that the project conceptions of the DA are extremely beneficial to Filipino farmers but often face implementation problems within the agency.

"Pagkai-implement na nila, sila din nagsasabotahe," he said. (When they implement [the projects], they themselves sabotage them.)

Nabcor is among the 5 GOCCs that President Benigno Aquino III has approved for abolition.

At least 38 have been charged in relation to the illegal fund diversion of lawmakers' PDAF to fake NGOs linked to alleged scam mastermind Janet Napoles. Mendoza and Cacal were among those charged.

Napoles' NGOs serve on paper as PDAF-funded project implementors. Nabcor is among the government corporations tagged as conduits of the illegal transactions.

Baligod is a private complainant in the first and second batches of PDAF scam cases. He was also the former legal counsel of principal PDAF scam whistleblower Benhur Luy. (READ: Why Luy dropped Baligod as counsel– Rappler.com