NAPC officials to Maza: 'Consider facts' before judging agency's performance

MANILA, Philippines – Barely a week after Liza Maza became the lead convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, NAPC officials that served the previous administration urged her to “pause and consider the facts” before making any judgment call on the work done by the agency over the last 6 years.

In a letter to Maza dated July 8, NAPC officials led by Undersecretaries Florencia Dorotan and Patrocinio Jude Esguerra III called on her not to join the Left in attacking the agency, but instead "defend NAPC's integrity where there is no reason nor evidence to believe otherwise.”

"You are now its leader," officials said.

The other signatories to the letter are Director Natividad Bernardino, head executive assistant Jessica Cantos, and executive assistant Alicia Raymundo.

"We hope that this letter gives you pause. Pause to consider the facts. pause to defer conclusions. Pause to entertain the possibility that you are in luck for having inherited an institution that is not as bad as your comrades have led you to believe. Pause long enough to realize that the burden of proof has to be on those who make accusations," they said.

The officials were referring to a recent Manila Today report that alleged that the “Akbayan-led NAPC was riddled with corruption issues with coco levy fund.” It also raised the issue on the agency's hiring of consultants, which cost P28 million and was questioned by the Commission on Audit in 2012.

In the letter, the NAPC officials dismissed as malicious and ill-informed the  Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas' allegation that the NAPC, under the stewardship of Joel Rocamora, tried to access P1.6 million from the coco levy fund.

They said the amount requested by an inter-agency group – not by NAPC – was P1.6 billion, and not a single centavo of the coco levy fund was spent because of a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court. 

The letter also debunked accusations that Bottom-up Budgeting (BuB), an Aquino administration program, is “hidden pork barrel.” BuB allows LGUs, civil society organizations, and non-governmental organizations to have their projects funded by the national government.

Detailing the steps taken in the BuB process, the officials pointed out that this is in fact, a “rigorous” process and keeps local officials from making unlimited recommendations.

This is not the first time NAPC fought for the reforms implemented by the Aquino administration. A few weeks before stepping down, Rocamora urged government beneficiaries to defend key pro-poor reforms by the Aquino administration – especially the BuB.

From a program that covered 609 poor municipalities when it was first implemented in 2013, this year, the BuB was implemented in all municipalities and cities across the country, NAPC said in a statement.

The BuB has a menu of programs, among them, the Integrated Community Food Production (ICFP), a program initiated by NAPC to help poor communities fight hunger and malnutrition by growing their own food.

The officials said they support Maza's statement that she would call for a NAPC audit outside the regular audits conducted by the Commission on Audit, but until any irregularities in fund use are proven, she should refrain from making any unfounded allegations.

After all, they added, that while they have different views and opinions, they share the same common goal: to eradicate poverty

According to Maza, leading the NAPC in the next 6 years is an opportunity to bring about change in the country, the campaign platform of the Duterte administration. She said she will focus on rural development.

‪"Bilang NAPC head, ibibigay ko ng lubos ang aking makakaya para tugunan ang mga responsibilidad at pangangailangan para maisakapatuparan ang agenda ng pamahaalan para sa mahihirap," she previously said.

‪(As NAPC head, I will give my best to take on the responsibilities and to do what has to be done to realize the government’s agenda for the poor.)‬