MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) is investigating another possible fertilizer fund scandal, this time in the home province of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Hundreds of fisherfolk in the coastal town of Masantol, Pampanga received letters from the Special Audits Office of the Commission on Audit, asking whether they each received P35,781.00 worth of agricutural products from the Department of Agrarian Reform in December 2009.
Items included in the agricultural input package are a heavy duty sprayer, organized container, agricultural paraphernalia, gloves, various seeds and seedlings, amounting to P35,781 each.
The fund was said to have come from the government's share of the Malampaya Fund.
Every one of the recipients in Masantol denied ever receiving such a package. No one, they said, received such an amount.
Even more suspicious is the fact that the entire town of Masantol is a fishing community. There are no farmers or rice fields in the area. No one would have use for any of the items mentioned in the agri package they allegedly received.
The problem is their letters came attached with a list of alleged recipients, and next to their names are signatures. But they all say these were forged, with some of them gladly showing the news team samples of their actual signatures.
Teresita Mendoza of Barangay Balibago asked how her husband, Maximo, could have possibly signed a document in December 2009 when he had been paralyzed from the neck down since 2008.
Even more baffled is Teodora Navarro, whose brother Arsenio also appeared in the list of signatories in 2009. She said Arsenio was already dead in 2008.
Some of the recipients/signatories are illiterate and cannot write their names. A young man who sells scrap bottles for a living also appears to have signed in the list of recipients. Others have been out of the country for years.
None of them have fields to farm.
What is alarming is that the Masantol residents have managed to collate only 6 of 84 pages of recipients as attached by COA. It is likely that the rest of the names in the 84-page list come from other places. And since each page in the list of recipients has 28 names, the total list of alleged recipients could add up to more than 2,000 people.