Malampaya scam unravels in Arroyo province

by Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 23 2012 09:21 PM | Updated as of Nov 24 2012 09:02 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A board member of a foundation that was supposed to have given millions of pesos to fishpond workers in Masantol, Pampanga has confirmed that the group and its operations are bogus.

A barefoot Juanito Castillo welcomed ABS-CBN News into what is supposed to be the registered address of Kaupdanan Para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (KMFI).

Castillo, in his house clothes, candidy said  it is actually just his house, which the foundation used in order to get Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration.

Castillo said it has been a while since he last saw the other members of the board.

He admittedly does not know much about what their functions are suppose to be as a foundation.

When they meet, Castillo said they talk about how much money they are making.

More than that, he has never seen them implement any livelihood project since their group started, he said.

Castillo said he has been kept out of the loop of operations since KMFI President Raymond de Asis, his brother-in-law, only asked to use his name and address for paperwork.

Castillo was promised financial help as reward for his cooperation.

But from what he knows, KMFI receives money from government officials which, De Asis, says they will all benefit from.

Castillo knows nothing about the Malampaya funds that KMFI allegedly received from the Department of Agrarian Reform, for distribution to communities like Masantol, Pampanga.

He also revealed that De Asis is a company driver and bodyguard of a wealthy individual.

The other board members are relatives. He also does not own P200,000 contrary to SEC records showing that it was his share in KMFI capital.

Repeated calls and texts to De Asis have gone unanswered.

'Malampaya scam'

 The Commission on Audit (COA) is investigating the suspected scam that was bared in the home province of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Hundreds of fisherfolk in the coastal town of Masantol, Pampanga earlier received letters from the Special Audits Office of the Commission on Audit, asking whether they each received P35,781.00 worth of agricutural products from the Department of Agrarian Reform in December 2009.

The fund was said to have come from the government's share of the Malampaya Fund.

Every one of the recipients in Masantol denied ever receiving such a package. No one, they said, received such an amount.

Even more suspicious is the fact that the entire town of Masantol is a fishing community. There are no farmers or rice fields in the area. No one would have use for any of the items mentioned in the agricultural package they allegedly received.

The letters came attached with a list of alleged recipients, and next to their names are allegedly forged signatures.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras has described the case as the Malampaya scam.

Last month, Almendras released a summary of the expenses charged to the Malampaya fund.

Almendras said billions of pesos had been spent on unspecified Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Science and Technology, Department of Finance, Department of Interior and Local Government, and Department of National Defense projects during the past administration.

Almendras said that the law says that the Malampaya fund must be used for energy-related projects, but the same law also authorized the use of funds for any projects the president may want to fund.

According to Almendras, the Commission on Audit has already started its probe on the various projects listed as beneficiaries of the fund.

For instance, the DA obtained more than P5.8 billion for unspecified projects.

When asked if this all leads to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Almendras said yes because the release of money from the Malampaya fund needs the imprimatur of the President of the Republic. - with a report from Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News