Thursday, February 28, 2013
MANILA, February 28, 2013-Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada is calling for a Senate inquiry to investigate reports that he and other lawmakers including Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile channeled their pork barrel to a bogus non government organization.
“I am calling for this thorough investigation to determine how our Priority Development Assistance Fund was able to benefit a non existing organization. We need to unmask those who benefited from this scheme,” Sen. Estrada said.
Meanwhile, Commission on Audit (COA) Chairperson Ma. Gracia M. Pulido Tan clarified that they are not investigating the lawmakers named in newspaper reports but the non-government organization involved in this mess.
Nevertheless, Estrada instructed his staff to work closely with the COA to clear his name.
“We’ll work with COA and we’ll open our books to get to the bottom of this,” Sen. Estrada said. “I won’t allow my office to be used as a conduit for debauchery, decadence, dishonesty and depravity.”
He also urged agriculture department to shed light on the operations of ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC)—a state-owned company that received a total of P206 million in pork barrel in several batches in 2009 and 2010.
“From news reports, ZREC – through the Department of Budget and Management as well as the Department of Agriculture – received about P106.7 million from my PDAF during the term of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” Sen. Estrada said.
ZREC then channeled the sum to the Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc. (PFI), an NGO which was strongly endorsed by the agriculture department.
“At that time, lawmakers were informed by the agriculture department that this NGO is a legitimate organization and that our pork barrel will be used to benefit thousands of farmers,” Estrada said.
“Now that COA revealed in its report that this NGO is nonexistent, we need to ask the former agriculture secretary as well as the ZREC board on why they channeled the taxpayers’ money to this bogus organization,” Estrada said.
“If these personalities do not appear in our investigation, I would ask for their arrest.”
COA noted several irregularities on the ZREC deal.
In the COA executive summary, it reported that “Petronila A. Balmaceda, PFI’s President, had not coordinated with them (ZREC) to be able to settle the issues raised in audit. Likewise, the confirmation letter sent by the audit team through a registered mail on February 9, 2012 was returned to us for reason that PFI had already moved out on the address indicated.”
“Considering that PFI failed to comply with the audit recommendations and had not coordinated for almost two years now, it is high time that the Management pursue the filing of appropriate legal action against PFI.”
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