By KIMBERLIE N. QUITASOL
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan urged a speedy and impartial investigation on the alleged involvement of Benguet officials in the misuse of pork barrel and Malampaya funds.
“We welcome the probe so that we will know who really misused public funds because it really deprived the province of much-needed funds,” he said in an interview with the Northern Dispatch.
Fongwan said he already advised all the mayors named in the Malampaya funds scam to prepare all their papers. “If their signatures were faked then they should prove it and clear their names so that the real culprit would be identified,” he said.
Fongwan said the Malampaya fund is an additional fund coming into the municipality while the PDAF is a regular fund for the municipality.
“I believe DBM (Department of Budget and Management) will not release the funds unless they will confirm the release from whoever the lawmaker,” he said.
Fongwan disclosed that he was offered several dubious PDAF-funded projects within his three terms as governor. He said he did not accept any of the said offers. He was first elected as governor in 2004 and is now on his third term.
He cited that a lawmaker once offered him a dubious P30-million ($689,559) worth of agricultural assistance to be funded through the PDAF. “I was approached by several people. They said a lawmaker sent them to us. But I said no, thank you,” he said.
Fongwan said the group offered him to sign the necessary papers and then he would receive a prepared check. He said the problem was that the project did not go through the necessary procedures set under Republic Act 9184 or the Procurement Law.
“They were making me sign the purchase request and purchase order all at the same time. It was as if it went through all the processes required by law,” he said.
He explained that projects like what the group was offering should go through the bidding process. He said after the purchase request is made it will be forwarded to the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) for proper bidding and awarding processes. After the project is awarded that is the time the purchase order should be signed.
Fongwan agreed that it would be very easy for any local executive to just sign the purchase order because it looked like the project already went through the procurement process. “All you have to do was sign the purchase order and they will give the check that was already prepared in the name of your province or municipality as if you have gone through the procurement process,” he said.
Fongwan said the supposed agricultural assistance included overpriced foliar sprays (a liquid fertilizer) and medical kits to be distributed to Benguet farmers. He said in the purchase order he was asked to sign the foliar spray that cost P1,300 ($29.89) per bottle. He said the same foliar spray is sold at only P115 ($2.68) in La Trinidad.
Moreover, the medical kit is pegged at P3,000 ($68.97) in the purchase order. If the contents would be bought from La Trinidad drugstores, the kit would only cost around P300 ($6.90). “Can you imagine the kickback if I signed the project?” he added.
Fongwan said it is about time the government gets rid of these unscrupulous deals within the system.
“I really feel bad about the billions of funds that were misused. We were having a hard time following up funds for the province and we were told there were no funds. And we learned later that there were millions of funds intended for Benguet but did not actually reach the province. It is about time that those involved be identified,” he said. With reports from