GLORIA ACCUSED OF P486-M RAID ON NIA BY LACSON CAMP
 
MANILA, March 9 2004
 
(MALAYA) By JOAN DAIRO The camp of Sen. Panfilo Lacson yesterday bared more documents related to President Arroyo's alleged use of government resources to buy the support of local officials.

The latest dole amounted to P486.550 million intended for irrigation projects of the National Irrigation Authority from Tayug, Pangasinan to Sison in Surigao del Norte.

Last Saturday, Lacson bared the release to administration lawmakers of around P728 million for fertilizers, even in areas where there are no farmlands.

The NIA documents were photocopies of advice of SARO (special allotment release order) issued to Agriculture Secretary Cito Lorenzo and dated Feb. 3.

The funds were for "priority impact irrigation projects" of the NIA.

The funds would be sourced from the re-enacted national budget for 2003, which opposition lawmakers earlier said Malacaņang might use for electioneering.

One document, SARO 00165, involves P336.777 million and covers the construction, repair, and rehabilitation of national and communal irrigation systems.

Another, SARO 00166, involves P149.773 million, and covers similar irrigation-related items.

The DBM also credited P97.310 million to the Land Bank account of the NIA for the purpose.

It was not immediately clear if the funds have been released, or and if they were used for the purpose after they were released.

Last Saturday, Lacson said some P728 million in fertilizer funds were released to administration lawmakers and officials as part of government's alleged continuing effort to "buy" the support of local officials.

Lacson produced docu-ments showing two lawmakers from Metro Manila, where there are no farmlands, got millions in agriculture funds.

Lacson called pathetic Malacaņang's attempts to belie his disclosure on the fertilizer funds.

"They can't even coordinate their answers. Presidential campaign spokesman Michael Defensor denied my allegations but agriculture secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. admitted it. We informed the public of these disbursements to preempt more corruption," he said.

He added government is due to disburse more "installments" of such funds just to make sure local executives support Arroyo's presidential bid.

On the P728 million agriculture fund, Lacson noted part of it went to Quezon City, which has no farmlands, although it has at least one golf course.

"What are the fertilizer funds for, for the golf course? I don't think there's any moral or legal justification for that," he said.

He said even one of his local supporters, Cavite Gov. Ireneo Maliksi, was offered P10 million in funds, where he would get only P5 million in actual fertilizers, with the receipt to show he got P10 million.

Tarlac Rep. Noynoy Aquino, an Arroyo ally, challenged Lacson "to produce evidence."

Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri (Lakas, Bukidnon) denied receiving any funds from the DA.

Rep. Marcelino Libanan (NPC, Eastern Samar) said no DA funds pass through the hands of the congressmen and local officials. He said these are provided to local government units which have identified the projects for implementation.

The Koalisyon ng Nag-kakaisang Pilipino (KNP) wants Malacaņang to explain the missing P600 million in funds of the mothballed National Electric Administra-tion, which is on top of the P3.55 billion in NEA money that it said the Palace still has to account for.

The missing fund was disclosed Sunday by Noel Sanchez, former NEA chief.

Sanchez has said the P600 million, which is reportedly part of the payment for the P18 billion loan of 119 electric cooperatives, is on top of the "missing" P3.55 billion set aside for the abolished agency.

Maceda said: "Only a detailed account of the P3.55 billion NEA allocation plus the P600 million allocation from Psalm (Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management) would put to rest the growing public suspicion that billions of pesos of funds intended for an abolished agency might be diverted to Mrs. Arroyo's campaign coffers, if such funds haven't found their way already by now to the President's overstuffed war chest."

Former Sen. Ernesto Maceda said the Palace is apparently resorting to all schemes, "legitimate or otherwise," to raise billions of pesos to augment Arroyo's campaign kitty.

Maceda also said Filipinos would have to put up with six more years of rampant corruption in government, rising public debt and spiraling electricity rates if Arroyo gets a full six-year term in May.

He said Arroyo's claim the country would become "kawawa (pitiable)" if she does not get elected was all "twaddle talk, which most Filipinos won't believe anyway because they have already seen and felt what they would have to endure for six more years if Mrs. Arroyo wins a full six-year term."

"The nation will not get `kawawa,' it will be utterly relieved and thankful if Mrs. Arroyo gets booted out of Malacaņang through the ballot," he said.

He said in only three years of the Arroyo administration, the Philippines earned the infamous tag of being Asia's 4th most corrupt nation, govern-ment debt rose by over P1 trillion with the country becoming the biggest borrower in the region last year, and consumers saw no relief in sight from spiraling power charges, fuel rates and food prices. (With Dennis Gadil)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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