COA tells lawmakers to return P1.8B pork funds

by Henry Omaga-Diaz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 12 2014 09:00 PM | Updated as of Jun 13 2014 07:00 AM

Rep. Binay defends worm project

MANILA - The pork barrel controversy is far from over, as far as Commission on Audit (COA) chair Grace Pulido Tan is concerned.

Tan said the COA is completing its investigation on how lawmakers used the funds, or where the money went from 2010 to 2012.

COA's special report on the use of pork barrel from 2007 to 2009 was used as basis for the filing of graft and plunder charges against some lawmakers.

Tan said COA has already written to dozens of legislators about nearly P2 billion that had been unaccounted for.

They include those who have not been indicted by the Ombudsman.

"As of today, I think we've issued about 110 notices of disallowances worth about P1.8 billion. We are in the process of finalizing them already... notices of disallowances covering about P5 billion," she said.

"Meaning to say... we do not consider it a legitimate disbursement of government funds. Ang suma total noon, isoli ninyo," she explained.

COA is also completing its investigation on questionable non-government organizations that are not connected to so-called "pork barrel queen" Janet Lim Napoles.

Tan said among the supposedly dubious projects that caught COA's attention are the worm or vermiculture programs of some lawmakers, including Makati Rep. Abigail Binay.

The issue was at the center of the exchange between Binay Rep. Egay Erice of the Liberal Party.

"We did technical inspections, for example, iyung sa vermiculture," Tan said. "Wala siyang culture (laughs). Siguro nagkamatayan na iyung uod. Tapos iyung mga tanim, wala ring tanim."

"When they talk about livelihood, you can't plant one guava tree. You have to have one mini-orchard or something," she added. "We saw nothing of that sort."

But Binay insists there's really no anomaly, and her constituents benefited from the project.

"Fully liquidated iyan, fully implemented iyan. Kahit pumunta kayo sa distrito ko," she said. "I have no worries about that project."

"Iyung uod, iyon ay ginagamit na composting. Malaki ang kita sa vermiculture kaya nga iyun iyung part ng urban backyard," Binay said.

Tan said the worm projects are only part of a bigger investigation on how legislators poured their pork barrel into nongovernment organizations that had nothing to do with Napoles.

"All in all, iyung mga dumaan sa mga NGOs, something like P6 billion plus. Iyung kay Napoles, may mga P2 billion iyun. So, the P4 billion would be spread over the rest of the NGOs," she said.

Tan is retiring next year and she has been nominated to the Supreme Court. - with ANC