2 ex-NABCOR officials spill beans on 'pork scam'

by Gerry Lirio and Henry Omaga-Diaz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 14 2014 08:55 PM | Updated as of Mar 19 2014 03:41 AM

MANILA -- Two former officials of the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR), an agency under the Department of Agriculture (DA), have revealed widespread irregularities at the agency amounting to billions of pesos in agricultural funds.

Speaking to ABS-CBN News, they said these irregularities range from the misuse of the "Ginintuang Masaganang Ani" and pork barrel funds in the past to the hiring of ghost employees in the present administration.

According to Rhodora Mendoza, NABCOR's former vice president for finance, she was one of the signatories of NABCOR cheques drawn against legislators' pork barrel funds to the agency for certain agricultural projects.
 
Mendoza said millions of these funds earmarked to help farmers improve their production went instead to the pockets of several legislators and NABCOR officials.

From the national government, the lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) went to the DA, then to NABCOR supposedly to fund NABCOR's agricultural projects.

Once these funds reached NABCOR, letters of the senators and congressmen would come one after another almost simultaneously, endorsing different non-government organizations (NGOs) to implement their respective projects.

Three of these NGOs belonged to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.

PRESSURE FROM NABCOR CHIEF

But early on, the transfer of funds or the funding of lawmakers's projects puzzled Mendoza because even if the NGOs were lacking in the required documentation, her boss, NABCOR President Alan Javellana, would pressure her into hastily signing and releasing cheques for the lawmakers to encash them at once.

Javellana was the other signatory in NABCOR cheques.

"Lagi niyang ginagawa. In fact sa PDAF, nauuna talagang pumipirma si Sir Alan pag ayokong pumirma kasi kulang ng requirements," Mendoza said.

Based on NABCOR documents, Senators Ramon 'Bong' Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile gave the biggest amounts to NABCOR.

The 3 have been sued for plunder before the Ombudsman for pork barrel anomalies based on the testimonies of Napoles' cousin, Benhur Luy, among others.

They have denied involvement in the pork barrel scam.

PLUGGING LOOPHOLES, NO BIDDING

Another former NABCOR official, Victor Cacal, supported Mendoza's claims.

According to the former para legal officer, Javellana had asked him to plug the loopholes in the NGOs' documentation.

Even in bidding, there was always fraud.

"Minsan yung supplier mismo di marunong mag-ayos ng bidding documents, ako pa mag-aayos nun para sa kanila," Cacal said.

"Pag nagtanong ka naman [sa nakakataas], minsan mabubulyawan ka, mapapagalitan ka," he added.

Mendoza also said, "Karamihan po sa mga procurement namin especially in terms of agricultural facilities, hindi po dumaan sa public bidding."

One time in 2007, Mendoza recalled another NABCOR official giving her P12 million for distribution to different politicians.

"Binigyan ako ni Mr. Javellana ng listahan, actually in his own handwriting. May mga pangalan dun, may specific amount. 'Pag dumating yung mga taong pupunta rito, eto yung ibibigay mo sa kanila.' So may listahan... Panay mga representatives, may governor, may congressman," she said.

MEDIA ALSO USED

According to Cacal, even media were used by NABCOR to justify misuse of funds.

In 2008, media reported on melanin scare involving milk products from China. He said these reports reinforced the funding of projects involving local milk.

"Pinapa-escalate nila yung isang sitwasyon na hindi naman ganun kalala. Dahil dun, nagkaroon ng project na kailangan ng gatas na -- Anong masustansyang gatas? Gatas daw ng kambing mas healthy. So nagkaroon ng project na ganun," he said.

There were some mediamen NABCOR had been forced to hire as consultants.

'NO STOP TO IRREGULARITIES'

When Javellana quit NABCOR, Honesto Baniqued took over.

But according to Cacal, irregularities didn't stop.
 
"Marami rin hong nasilaw dun sa nalaman nila kung gano kadali magkapera," he said.

Until he left NABCOR in December 2013, Cacal noticed that NABCOR had on its payroll some ghost employes.

"Nagugulat na lang kami meron na, 'Ah may empleyado tayong ganyan? Sino kaya yan?' Maaaring nanggaling po sa mother agency, maaaring sa loob din ng opisina namin. Pero ito yung magagawa lang ng isang taong may kapangyarihan na magsabi na ilagay niyo yan diyan," he said.

ABS-CBN News went to see Baniqued's office at Tektite Towers. But the guard said NABCOR had no office on Fridays. ABS-CBN also tried to get the side of Javellana, but according to Mendoza and Cacal, Javellana already left for abroad.
 
Malacañang has abolished NABCOR in the midst of controversies surrounding the firms's financial losses, especially because of its alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.

Mendoza and Cacal said they are willing to testify on who were behind NABCOR's fund mess.