Palace to DA: Explain COA findings

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 18 2014 06:51 PM | Updated as of Mar 19 2014 02:51 AM

MANILA - Malacanang has asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to respond to Commission on Audit (COA) findings that Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers were coursed through the National Agribusiness Corp. (NABCOR).

Two former NABCOR officials, an agency under the 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.

Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said the allegations of the ex-NABCOR officials cites the 2012-2013 COA report.

"The Department of Agriculture is required to explain the findings of such report and inform COA of actions taken to address such findings. Ipaubaya na lang muna natin sa Department of Agriculture na sagutin 'yung mga findings na nakasaad doon sa COA audit report na pinagbatayan ng mga alegasyon na 'yan."

Coloma, meantime, stressed President Aquino enjoys immunity from suit. This is in reaction to a plunder case pending in the Sandiganbayan regarding the alleged misuse of some PDAF of lawmakers through the DA.

"The President is immune from suit while in office. Secretary (Florencio) Abad and Secretary (Proceso) Alcala are capable of answering the allegations against them," he said.