MANILA, Philippines - More nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that allegedly received millions of pesos in grants from the Malampaya project under the Arroyo administration are nowhere to be found.
Department of Agriculture (DAR) records show that in 2009, P10 million were downloaded from the agency to an NGO called Tanglaw Para sa Magsasaka Foundation.
The said amount was said to have been used by Yanglaw to purchase and distribute farming equipment to the municipality of Hingyon in Ifugao.
But a preliminary investigation by DAR showed that Hingyon never received the said amount. Then-Hingyon Mayor Ramon Tinawani, in a letter to the DAR, vehemently denied ever having heard of such a fund.
Tinawani also maintained that his signatures in the memorandum of agreement between DAR, the foundation, and the LGU were forged.
Per DAR records, Tanglaw Para Sa Mangggawa Foundation's official address is on Block 2, Lot 1, Tulip Street, West Fairview Park Subdivision, Barangay Fairview, Quezon City. But ABS-CBN News' visit to Tulip Street showed that the said address did not even exist.
There are only 14 blocks on the street. Moreover, residents who have lived there for decades said they've never heard nor seen such a group in the area.
"Walang ganyang address dito," said one resident, Ma. Teresa Alcaraz.
"Kilala namin lahat ng tao dito, walang tao dito na may ganyang pangalan," said another local, Martha Ramitere.
There is also no record of the group at the Fairview barangay hall.
Officials consider this proof that the foundation doesn't exist in the area, since all organizations -- whatever the function -- must all get a barangay clearance before being allowed to establish themselves within the jurisdiction.
Residents and barangay officials alike deny knowing a certain Nova Kay Viray, who DAR records say is the president of Tanglaw Para Sa Magsasaka Foundation.
If the foundation cannot be found, where are P10 million that were supposed to have been received by Hingyon 2 years ago?
Tip of the iceberg
The Hingyon issue may only be the tip of the iceberg.
In 2009, the entire P900 million given to DAR from the Malampaya fund was distributed to various NGOs like the Tanglaw Ng Mga Magsasaka Foundation, with the agreement that the groups would be the ones to distribute the funds in DAR's behalf.
Initial investigation by the agency reveals that of the 8 NGOs they have checked thus far, 5 including Tanglaw Ng Mga Magsasaka, cannot be found in their official addresses.
Each of the ngos was given at least P10 million per municipality. It is still uncertain how many municipalities these groups were assigned to.
The said NGOs are:
- Bukirin Tanglaw Foundation, Inc.
- Tanglaw Para Sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.
- Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation, Inc.
- Kasaganahan Para Sa Magsasaka Foundation, Inc.
- Masaganang Buhay Foundation, Inc.
There are also more NGOs on DAR's list that still need to be verified, as the P900-million fund was spread out through Regions 1 to 4 and the Cordillera Administrative Region.
It may be recalled that ABS-CBN News tried to locate the official address of another ngo called Kaupdanan Para Sa Mangunguma Foundation, Inc., but instead found the residence of Juanito Castillo -- one of the group's board members, who claimed the NGO had not convened in a while, and that he only allowed to group to use his name and address because he was promised good profit from it.
Kaupadanan, like the other NGOs, claimed that they distributed at least P6 million worth of farming equipment to Masantol, Pampanga. But residents of Masantol say that their signatures were forged, and that they received no such money. Moreover, there are no ricefields in Masantol as the community is full of fishponds.
The DAR is in its initial stages of investigation, running parallel to a probe already being conducted by the Commission on Audit.
They are now verifying which portions of the P900 million fund are missing, and which officials in 2009 could have had a hand in this.
In an earlier interview, Agrarian Reform Secretary Gil Delos Reyes said he finds it unlikely that then-Secretary Nasser Pangandaman did not know about the fund.
Pangandaman refused to comment on the matter.
Delos reyes now fears that with P900 million in government funds unaccounted for, the controversy could very well be bigger than the infamous fertilizer fund scam.