Cover Ups, Fund Scams and the Pork

by Megan Flores

There’s More Here than Meets the Eye

jane napolesThe case of Jenny Napoles has opened a can of worms whose stench has reached the highest offices of our country. To date, 28 officials have been implicated in the PDAF scandal. The PDAF or Priority Development Assistance Fund is a lump-sum appropriation in the annual General Appropriations Act which is meant to fund the priority development programs and projects of the government.

Amounting to billions of pesos in taxpayers money, the funds are given to the country’s legislators for them to give to appropriate to chosen programs and projects. The exposure on the PDAF scam seems to point to a veritable truckload of questions on the integrity of our lawmakers – who it seems are the ones, it greatly benefitting from this scam.

The PDAF for years 2007 to 2009 was meant for soft projects under the category of education, health, livelihood, comprehensive integrated delivery of social services, financial assistance to address specific pro-poor programs of the government, historical, arts and culture, peace and order; and small infrastructure projects such as irrigation, rural electrification, water supply, housing and forest management.(SAO Report 2012-03 PDAF, page 2.)  The total amount appropriated under the GAA (General Appropriations Act) for these amounted to P29.004B for PDAF and P50.874B for VILP.  Funds allocated to each congressional district amounted to P70M for each legislator and partylist representative, and P200M for each Senator (P100M for PDAF, P100M for VILP).

The Special CoA Report: What is its Purpose?

pork barrelLast week, the Commission on Audit (CoA) released its Special Reports Audit on the PDAF and Various Infrastructures including Local Projects (VILP) for the years 2007 to 2009. The report, freely available to anyone wishing to scrutinize the results, identifies the appropriations per legislator, the projects and programs the funds were allotted to, the Implementing Agencies tasked, and the NGOs that were given authority by the legislator to manage the funds.

The special audit by the CoA is among several efforts of the agency to point out the alarming irregularities in transactions between several NGOs and the government for the past years. For the years 2007 to 2009, the audit has been especially thorough, and has identified at least 82 NGOs with irregularities in the way the funds were transferred to them by implementing government agencies, and in how they handled the funds from the government.

“The implementation of 772 projects by the selected 82 NGOs out of funds transferred by 10 IAs amounting to P6.156 Billion was not proper and highly irregular. There were no bases for the selection of suppliers as they did not conduct biddings while substantial transactions and distributions of items purportedly procured were not documented.” SAO Report 2012-03 PDAF, page 15.

The irregularities unearthed by the COA report for PDAF releases during the years 2007 to 2009 pointed out how this scam became possible. From these, although not stated, it is indirectly pointed out that collusion for the fund appropriations would not have been possible without the knowledge and consent of the legislators.

When the CoA report was released to the public however, its focus was on highlighting the allocation of excessive funds for PDAF for the years 2007 to 2009, during the Arroyo Administration. In the special report, 74 legislators exceeded their respective allocations by amount ranging from P71M to P3.068B. Spending more for projects and programs that are meant to benefit more people sounds good on paper. However, the recent controversy involving the PDAF allocations during the watch of President Aquino has put a question on this special report.

Just the Tip of the Iceberg

The release of the Special Audit report by CoA Chairman Grace Pulido Tan has raised the anger of our countrymen. However, the timing and purpose of the release is being questioned by legislators, people’s organizations and ordinary citizens. The report’s scope is focused only for the previous administration’s PDAF despite President Aquino’s Administration being 3 years already in power.

The fact that the Napoles case is threatening to include the irregularities concerning PDAF releases during the administration of President Aquino certainly makes it look that the CoA report shown by Pulido-Tan a mere diversionary attempt meant to confuse the public (which is a great disservice to those who worked hard creating this report).

In fact, when comparing the PDAF allocations from the year 2008 to 2014, there is actually an upsurge of fund allocations under the current Aquino government compared to the previous Arroyo administration. The PDAF appropriation in 2008 amounted to about P7.89B and rose to P10.86B by 2010. Compared to this, the PDAF appropriations from 2011 to the proposed 2014 budget have risen to more than twice its 2010 value. According to data from the DBM, the PDAF allocations for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 average to around P24.875B each year. By 2014 the PDAF proposal reaches P25.2B.

Combing Through the Data

The sudden upsurge in data – from the DOJ investigation in the Napoles case, to the CoA Special Audit and the DBM records – has given us a window to see what and how all these data are interconnected.  The 2004 Fertilizer Scam controversy which showed us how the DA funds (worth P728M) under the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani was funneled and misused by private suppliers and foundations that were recipients of the funds.

The Senate Blue Ribbon and the Senate committee on Agriculture at that time described the Fertilizer Scam Controversy as “premeditated, systematic and agricultural theft” tantamount to “the rape of the nation.” Although the Blue Ribbon and the Senate agriculture committee report recommended the filing of plunder charges against Bolante, former Agriculture Secretary Luis Ramon Lorenzo, former assistant secretary for field operations Ibarra Poliquit, and others involved , no legislator was clearly implicated. It also appears that the lessons learned in the Fertilizer Scam has been put to good use by Napoles – one of those implicated in the Fertilizer Scam but who was able to escape being charged for it.

This time, with the PDAF allocations, NGOs were the conduits of the fund, made possible through the endorsement of the legislators whose PDAFs were used. Since it is against the law for NGOs to receive funding directly from government funds without any appropriation law or ordinance, it should have been difficult to pull off. But with evidence showing that it happened, a collusion between legislators, implementing agencies, LGUs and NGOs who (one way or another) benefitted from the scam is the only clear reason why the Pork Barrel scandal happened.

The Spider Web of the Pork Barrel Mess

pdafscamSimilar to the Fertilizer Scam, the PDAF scam involved a sharing system for all those part of the scheme. Implementing government agencies need signed papers of NGOs chosen to implement programs and projects. NGOs need approval from LGUs where the projects will be implemented, as well as endorsements from the Legislators whose funds are going to be used. Legislators need to have beneficiaries for their projects and programs, and work with LGUs. LGUs will need to work with NGOs who will implement the project or program. Implementing government agencies need to coordinate with the LGUs, legislators and NGOs for the successful implementation of the program or project.

So where do we start looking? We can start looking at the projects and programs.

Looking at all the data available from the DBM, there are only a few programs and projects that stand out for having the highest amount allocated. These are: projects or programs related to medical missions and health programs, and livelihood projects or programs (including irrigation, high value crops and livelihood trainings). For the year 2013, the legislators who standout as having put the most funding on these type of projects and programs are: Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Ejercito-Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Manuel “Lito” Lapid and Gregorio Honasan.

The question that comes next is: Are they or are they not involved in the Pork Barrel Scam? With the Fertilizer Scam, 25% of the funds went to the DA; 30% to the LGUs; 20% to the supplier of farm inputs; and 25% to the runners. In the PDAF scam, the whistleblowers claim that 40%-50% of the fund went to the legislators and the rest went to the NGO and its conspirators. If this is accurate, if even just half of the P100M PDAF assigned to a Senator will allocated for the scam, he receives P25M. And that’s not peanuts.

So how true are these data? Are all these data floating in the air out in the open meant to help weed out the guilty? Or are all these purposefully spread out like a wide net for all to see so as to hide something else?

Infographic via GMA 7. Some rights reserved.