MANILA, AUGUST 19, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Michael Punongbayan - Considered the easiest to fake, livelihood projects for the poor were used by 82 non-government organizations – many of them of dubious origin – as excuses in cornering sizable shares of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).

After a three-year investigation, COA said it was able to uncover the activities of the 82 NGOs, 10 of which have been linked to fugitive businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and former employee and whistle-blower Benhur Luy.

In a special audit report, COA revealed that the 82 NGOs entrusted with the implementation of 772 livelihood projects valued at P6.156 billion from 2007 to 2009 were either non-existent, were of questionable background based on documents they submitted, or had failed to perform proper liquidation procedures for the funds entrusted to them.

COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan said 12 senators and more than 180 congressmen had given billions of pesos of their PDAF to dubious entities during the three-year period alone.

Of the 82 NGOs, the Social Development Program for Farmers Foundations Inc. (SDPFFI), of which Luy was an incorporator and president, received the biggest amount of pork barrel funds at P585.3 million.

Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. provided the biggest chunk of P169 million in three tranches.

Records also showed that Sen. Jinggoy Estrada gave SDPFFI P90.4 million, while Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile allocated a little over P63 million.

The rest came from congressmen, including Edgar Valdez of party-list group Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives, Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas IV, South Cotabato Rep. Arthur Pingoy Jr., La Union Rep. Victor Francis Ortega, Masbate Rep. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, Pangasinan Rep. Conrado Estrella Jr., Sarangani Rep. Erwin Chiongbian, Robert Raymund Estrella of the party-list group ABONO, Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, and Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa.

The COA report said one disturbing detail in the record of SDPFFI was that its office was “located in a garage of a residential unit in Laguna.”

Of the more than P123 million that various foundations had used to pay the salaries of their employees and finance administrative expenses, the SDPFFI was accountable for over P2.1 million.

The special audit said the same foundation was among those that had totally disregarded the provisions of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Law in spending the PDAF it had received.

SPDFFI was also among those that had used the names of passers in the Bar and licensure exams for nurses and certified public accountants in 2007 and 2008 as beneficiaries in its projects.

SPDFFI was also on the list of NGOs that had transacted with 13 suppliers of dubious reputation.

The COA report said it also found other irregularities such as those of some beneficiaries attending the same training sessions for several times, usually in the same towns.

In an interview with The STAR yesterday, Tan noted that not all of the 82 NGOs were fake or of dubious nature. One of them, the Philippine Red Cross, was on the list for failing to liquidate P21.3 million of the P52.1 million in PDAF received from then senator Richard Gordon in 2007.

Biggest spenders

Meanwhile, records from the Department of Budget and Management showed that Enrile had spent the biggest amount of PDAF from 2007 to 2009, exceeding his three-year allocation by P304.5 million.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, with whom he had locked horns on several issues, was the most frugal spender during the same period, using only P3 million of his PDAF.

Former senator Edgardo Angara was the next biggest PDAF spender.

Trailing Angara was Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. who used up a total of P853 million from 2007 to 2009.

When he was still senator, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II was second to Trillanes with the smallest pork spending at only P5 million.

President Aquino, as a senator, was next to Roxas with only P40 million of his PDAF spent from 2007 to 2009.

Under the PDAF system, a senator is entitled to a maximum of P200 million a year for soft and hard projects while congressmen receive P70 million annually.

Enrile, Angara and Revilla and three other senators – Jinggoy Estrada, Manuel Lapid, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago – had exceeded their pork barrel spending caps during the same period.

The special audit report also bared how Davao del Norte Rep. Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora received almost P3 billion in PDAF while a “ghost congressmen” named Luis Abalos mysteriously got P20 million.

A total of 74 legislators exceeded their PDAF budgets by hundreds of millions of pesos from 2007 to 2009.

Senate President Franklin Drilon and Panfilo Lacson were not in the DBM list of senators who received PDAF during the period. Lacson has never availed himself of his pork allocation.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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