MANILA, Philippines - Millions of lawmakers' pork barrel funds are apparently missing and the Commission on Audit (COA) should trace and look into the status of the funds.
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite made the appeal to COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan after being informed that millions in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) given by some senators to local government units are not accounted for in annual audit reports for these LGUs.
PDAF was the official name of the congressional pork barrel before the Supreme Court (SC) struck it down in November as unconstitutional. It allocated P200 million a year for each senator and P70 million for each member of the House of Representatives.
Barzaga, an accountant-lawyer, said based on the website of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), PDAF allocations had been released to certain LGUs.
However, he said the annual audit reports for these local government units do not reflect those funds.
As mayor of his city for nine years, he said he knew that as a matter of accounting procedure, whatever funds received by a province, city or town should be recorded in its books of accounts, and that the auditors’ reports should state the status of those funds.
He pointed out that if the audit reports do not mention such funds, it could only be concluded that the money could not be accounted for.
He added that while the information he received pertains only to the PDAF of some senators, it is possible that the pork barrel funds of certain House members are not reflected in audit reports on LGUs to which they were allocated.
Thus there is a need for the COA to trace the funds from the DBM to the LGUs and inquire where they ended up, he stressed.
He noted that audit reports for other LGU-recipients of PDAF fully account for those funds.
The LGUs where COA reports for 2012 do not reflect the pork barrel funds released to them are in Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan and Quezon.
For instance, based on the DBM website, San Carlos City in Pangasinan received P10 million from Sen. Vicente Sotto III and another P10 million from Sen. Loren Legarda for vermiculture or earthworm-growing. There is no mention of the funds in the auditors’ report.
Balungao, another town in Pangasinan, was the beneficiary of P10 million from Legarda and P5 million from Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also for earthworm-growing projects.
Auditors reported that there was a single “national funded” transaction involving the purchase of “vermiculture packages” worth P6 million.
Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. allocated P15 million to another Pangasinan town, Umigan, while Sotto gave it P5 million. No such funds were mentioned in the auditors’ report.
Marcos and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada each gave the town of Bulacan, Bulacan P10 million. The money does not show up in the audit report.
The DBM website shows that San Leonardo town in Nueva Ecija was given P5 million each by Sotto and Revilla for organic farming projects, and P20 million by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago for a farm-to-market road.
The funds are not taken up in the auditors’ report.
Estrada gave the town of San Antonio in Quezon P7 million, but the money is not mentioned in the COA report.
He allocated P20 million for the town of Javier in Leyte in 2012. The town also received an additional P10 million from Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
The Javier audit report is not yet posted on the COA website, though the reports for most towns are already available.
3rd batch of respondents
At least eight people, most of them lawmakers, will also face charges for plunder or malversation of public funds in connection with the pork barrel fund scam, a source said yesterday.
The source declined to provide the names of the third batch of respondents, saying it is up to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to identify them.
These lawmakers, according to the source, were among those who channeled their PDAF to Napoles-linked non-government organizations from 2007 to 2009.
Another source earlier told The STAR that a senator may be included in the charge sheet.
“The biggest fish in the next case is (Gringo) Honasan,” the source told The STAR.
Senator Cynthia Villar downplayed reports that her husband, former president Manuel Villar, was among those linked to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, saying innocent people are being unfairly dragged into the controversy.
Mrs. Villar said the reported supply of computers for their district, when she was still congresswoman, was program of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). – With Evelyn Macairan, Marvin Sy, Aie Balagtas See