BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
Vol. VII, No. 36, October 14-20, 2007
The trail of the P847 million ($19,228,149 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.05) funds for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) seemed to have vanished, said Danilo Ramos, secretary-general of the peasant group (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), based on its review of official documents of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Records from the DBM show that two separate Special Action Release Orders (SARO) were issued on Dec. 29, 2006: SARO No. E-06-10435 amounting to P347.305 million ($7,883,620) and SARO No. E-06-10436 amounting to P500 million ($11,350,737).
The first amount was allocated “to cover requirements of operational support, agribusiness development, locally-funded projects and rehabilitation of calamity-stricken areas” while the second amount was allocated “to cover requirement of pump-priming projects” both under the government’s agrarian reform program.
In relation to this, a Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) of P150 million ($3,405,221) was released to the DAR based on a Jan. 23, 2007 letter from DBM secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. to DAR secretary Nasser Pangandaman. The NCA was supposedly released based on documents submitted by DAR detailing three tranches of disbursements for CARP in 2006 namely, first, a document bearing the DBM serial number 2007-SO1421L shows the DAR released P150 million to three municipalities of Rizal – Taytay (P35M or $794,551), Angono (P15M or $340,522) and Rodriguez (P10M or $227,014); three municipalities of Quezon – Buenavista (P20M or $454,029), Catanauan (P20M or $454,029) and Mulanay (P10M or $227,014); and Sn. Andres, Romblon (P40M or $908,059).
The second set of beneficiaries include: Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija (P10M or $227,014); Victoria, Tarlac (P15M or $340,522); 1st District of Rizal through Rep. Michael John “Jack” Duavit (P50M or $1,135,073); and two municipalities of Romblon – San Agustin (P25M or $567,536) and San Andres (P50M or $1,135,073). Note that the municipality of San Andres in the province of Romblon appears in the first two sets of beneficiaries with two different amount allocations.
The third set of beneficiaries include: four municipalities of Rizal – Taytay (P35M or $794,551), Baras (P20M or $454,029), Angono (P15M or $340,522), and Teresa (P5M or $113,507); the municipalities of Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao (P25M or $567,536); Malay, Aklan (P20M or $454,029); Alfonso Lista, Ifugao (P20M or $454,029); Bay, Laguna (P5M or $113,507); and Dipaculao, Aurora, Quezon (P5M or $113,507).
Note that Taytay and Angono appear in the last two set of beneficiaries.
These disbursements amounted to a total of P450 million ($10,215,664) or P150 million ($3,405,221) per set of beneficiaries.
Other lists of projects for disbursements were also submitted to the DBM. In a letter dated January 2007, Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman submitted to Andaya a list of municipalities/provinces and its project allocations amounting to another P200 million ($4,540,295). According to the Pangandaman list, the projects were for four municipalities in Rizal and one in Bulacan.
In a separate letter, dated January 30, DAR Regional Director (Region IV-A) Dominador Andres Ceso III listed projects for the provinces of Batangas, Laguna, Bulacan, Rizal, and Quezon in the amount of P510 million ($11,577,752). These same provinces were already identified in another list of municipalities and provinces covered by the NCA and submitted by DAR, as shown in the attachments of the January letter of Andaya to Pangandaman.
In a letter dated May 2, Andaya told the DAR to confirm, validate and report appropriate action on the release of funds for the list provided by Ceso. In a PARC memorandum dated June 14, Aurita Carlos, Agrarian Reform Fund Management Service (ARFMS) of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) Secretariat director informed Ceso that “the said allotment has already been programmed for priority projects in various regions nationwide, including Region IV.”
However, Carlos said the list of projects does not include the ones cited/proposed in Ceso’s letter.
Where is the money?
The trail vanishes when seen in the light of the proceeding documents.
In a letter May 4, Rizal Rep. Duavit, who was identified as a recipient of a P50M ($1,135,073) project in the original list attached by Andaya in the NCA, said in his letter: “It has come to my attention said projects (farm-to-market roads) have remained unimplemented up to this time because DAR central office has not yet made any fund transfers to DAR-Region 4-A.”
In another letter dated May 29, Mayor Geminiano Galicia Jr., of San Andres, Romblon which supposedly benefited from another P50M ($1,135,073) project also in the original list, asked the DAR to re-align the P40 million fund to the provincial government of Romblon.
Surprisingly, Aurita Carlos told Duavit and Galicia in a similar letter dated June 6 that, “We regret that we cannot favorably act on your request inasmuch as our official list of projects funded out of the said NCA does not include the said projects of Rizal. In fact, all of the projects supposedly to be funded per supporting Annex A of the NCA are not funded under the Agrarian Reform Fund (ARF).”
In the same letter of Carlos, she admitted that “we have been receiving reports on similar cases the past weeks. Seemingly, there is a proliferation of different list of projects being claimed/presented as annex of the subject NCA. Most often, the targets of this misrepresentation are those in the local government units who are induced to give favors just to facilitate the funding and implementation of much needed infrastructure projects in their areas.”
On the same date (June 6), Jeffrey Galan, DAR Undersecretary for Finance Management and Administrative Office (FMAO), wrote Andaya a letter clarifying that the NCAs issued by the DBM to the DAR do not have an attachment identifying the projects to be funded.
Where then did the P150 million covered in the NCA go? If the P150 million released through the NCA was not part of Agrarian Reform Funds (ARF), where was it sourced? What happened to the P847 million released through the two SAROs?
Because of this, the KMP and Bantay Pondo, an anti-fraud and anti-corruption formed March 28 by peasant, fisherfolk, religious, and youth groups, called on the House of Representatives and the Senate to investigate the possible malversation of DAR-ARF funds, falsification of public documents, abuse of discretion, and violations of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act) by top DAR officials.
The CARP, already being criticized by farmers’ groups as ineffective and marred by questionable release of funds such as the fertilizer scam in 2004 and now the ARF funds, is up for extension for another ten years. KMP said that if CARP is extended then more of the same type of corruption would happen.(Bulatlat.com)