37 face charges over P200-M agri fund scam
MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman announced on Monday, August 5, that a 5-man panel will start formal hearing into criminal and administrative complaints over the misuse of P200 million agricultural funds.
The funds were earmarked in 2007 and 2008, during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for agri-business development under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
One of the respondents is Benhur Luy, the whistleblower and self-confessed bagman in the current pork barrel fund scam allegedly headed by Janet Lim-Napoles.
Napoles was implicated in the fertilizer fund scam during Arroyo’s time, but senators didn’t call her for the hearings. She is now the subject of a separate National Bureau of Investigation probe.
Also involved in the agri fund scam that the Ombudsman is hearing now are some of the non-governmental organizations that Luy recently tagged as Napoles’ fronts in getting lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund for ghost projects.
Aside from Luy, also named respondents in the complaint were 29 individuals and former Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Nasser Pangandaman (who is now a party-list representative), DAR Undersecretary Narciso Nieto, Director Teresita Panlilio, chief accountant Angelita Cacananta, budget officer Ronald Venancio, cashier Nilda Baui.
They are facing possible indictments for graft and falsification charges.
Public officials who are involved could also be held liable for administrative offenses, including grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, gross neglect of duty, and serious dishonesty.
These could entail substantial fines, forfeiture of pension and retirement benefits, and disqualification from holding public office.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said the investigation will be based on the case build-up conducted by the Field Investigation Office (FIO) which started long before Luy even surfaced to disclose what he knows about the reported pork barrel scam.
According to the FIO’s findings, respondent former DAR officials transferred funds for “agri-business development,” “micro-livelihood project,” or “agricultural production” to 7 NGOs:
- Philippine Agri and Social Economic Development Foundation Inc (PASEDFI)
- Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc (AEPFFI)
- Agrikultura Para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc (APMFI)
- Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc (SDPFFI)
- People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc (POPDFI)
- Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc (MAMFI)
- Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc (CARED).
At least 2 of these NGOs – SDPFFI and MAMFI – have been identified with Napoles.
The projects were supposedly undertaken in farming towns in the provinces of Cagayan, Pangasinan, Cavite, Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, and Agusan del Sur.
However, the supposed farmer beneficiaries denied having signed or received anything in the form of funds or farm inputs. – Rappler.com