A former congressman yesterday said the P10bn anomaly involving unauthorised releases of discretionary funds is “peanuts” compared to anomalies involving the internal revenue allotments (IRA) of various local government units (LGU) nationwide.
Rodolfo Antonino, who was Nueva Ecija representative, estimated that similar rackets involving the IRA could run into billions of pesos each year. In his district alone, the Commission on Audit (COA) had identified at least two municipalities where millions in public funds were released without proper documentation.
“PDAF [priority development assistance funds] only involves lawmakers and a few other officials in the Executive and the Judiciary who may have their own funds. Even the President [Benigno Aquino 3rd] has his own [intelligence and social] funds. But the anomalies involving IRA would make the PDAF scam seem like peanuts,” Antonino told The Manila Times in an interview.
Antonino and his successor, daughter Magnolia Antonino-Nadres, faced the media and revealed that at least P95mn worth of PDAF from four senators, including former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, had been given to three non-government organisations which are apparently bogus.
Antonino said his daughter will file a resolution seeking an inquiry into “how IRA funds are used, implemented and released by mayors and other local government executives”.
He said the IRA “is a form of discretionary fund in a much larger form. The amount of money lost to the PDAF scam may just be a pittance because IRA is allocated everywhere”, the former congressman said.
By his own estimates, Antonino said 10% of the IRA may have been lost to corruption over the years. If his estimates are right, the amount could be equivalent to about P20bn to P30bn annually at any given time.
For 2013 alone, the IRA grew 37.5% to P302.3bn, boosted by higher revenue collections in 2010, based on a report by the Department of Budget and Management.
The IRA is based on revenue collections in the three years before the current fiscal year, according to Section 284 of the Local Government Code (LGC), which mandates that LGUs should have a share from the collections.
The 2013 IRA was to be distributed to 81 provinces, 143 cities, 1,479 municipalities, and 41,889 barangays, including the newly created cities of Ilagan in Isabela, Mabalacat in Pampanga, and Cabuyao in Laguna.
According to Antonino, the municipality of San Leonardo alone spent P50mn for various deals without authorisation between 2007 and 2011 during the incumbency of former Mayor Froilan Nagaño.
“Based on the audit reports, all the auditors got were checks paid to several firms and even individuals, nothing more,” he said.
On the other hand, in the town of San Antonio, Mayor Arvin Salonga also authorised the release of millions of pesos for anti-dengue granules from a private trading firm “without quotation, Bureau of Internal Revenue receipts and resolution to award, among others”.
“This could be happening everywhere. Congress must investigate,” Antonino said, adding that they will ask COA for all similar audit reports so that they can come up with a definitive cost.
Antonino said that not only JLN Group of Companies, the firm owned by Janet Lim-Napoles that allegedly used fake NGOs to siphon PDAF.
He said there was one NGO in his province that was given congressional funds for a dubious project. This NGO is not connected with JLN. He identified the NGO as the Kaupdanan Mangunguna Foundation Inc
Citing a COA report dated December 2012, the Antoninos revealed that P70mn worth of PDAF was released to NGOs Countrywide Agri and Rural Development Foundation and Ginintuang Alay Magsasaka Foundation, while Kaupdanan Mangunguna was given P20mn even if all these entities were not authorised to receive such funds.
The NGOs, it was learned, did not have supporting documents on how they will spend the money such as obligation requests, quotations, and resolutions to award.
Moreover, the funding remains unliquidated to this day.
The NGO recipients, the Antoninos said, was chosen by San Antonio Mayor Salonga.
While the COA report named Enrile as one of the donors, it did not identify the three other senators whose PDAF was distributed to the NGOs.
“The report only said ‘from different senatiors’,” Antonino said.
On top of the P90mn, another P5mn worth of PDAF from Enrile was also handed to Ginintuang Alay Magsasaka Foundation in San Leonardo, where Nagaño was mayor.
“If the objective of the president is to clean up the processes in disbursement of funds, then we need to take this very seriously,” the older Antonino said in a press conference.
“Part of our job as a representative is to make sure that local government units are held accountable. These LGUs should be investigated upon,” Congresswoman Nadres added.
Meanwhile, Western Samar Representative Mel Senen Sarmiento, a top official of the Liberal Party (LP), has dismissed politics as the motive behind some lawmakers’ involvement in the P10bn discretionary fund scam because non-state entities are not eligible for PDAF assistance.
Sarmiento was reacting to the accusation by Senator Ramon Bong Revilla, Jr. that the Aquino administration is behind the expose implicating Revilla as one of the 28 lawmakers who funneled his PDAF to JLN Corp.
“The attempts to drag the Aquino administration into the alleged P10bn discretionary fund scam are nothing but a smokescreen to make it appear that politics is behind the controversy. The practice of allocating the PDAF to non-government organisations and people’s organisations have stopped since 2011. They were removed from the menu of projects which are eligible for PDAF support,” Sarmiento, the LP secretary general, pointed out.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is already looking into the alleged scam.
Each member of the House of Representatives is entitled to P70mn PDAF every year, while a senator receives P200mn annually.
At the Senate, Senator Franklin Drilon said Congress can easily do away with the PDAF even without passing a special law abolishing it provided that members of both chambers agree to it.
According to Drilon, there is no need for Congress to pass legislation to scrap the discretionary fund system because it can be done just by deleting it from the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2014.
“GAA is a law and therefore both houses must agree. If you do not provide for PDAF in GAA, there will be no PDAF. As simple as that,” Drilon explained during the weekly Kapihan sa Senado news forum.
Party-list Representative Antonio Tinio filed House Bill 1535 or An Act Abolishing the “Pork Barrel” System following reports about the supposed misuse of PDAF allocation of some members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.