MANILA, Philippines - The Senate's agriculture and food committee will call for an investigation on the release of P7.5 billion during the Arroyo administration for the building of farm-to-market roads, some of which allegedly do not exist.
In a statement, agriculture committee chairman Sen. Francis Pangilinan called it "plunder."
"Our people were deprived of the opportunity to improve their lives with the help of these much-needed roads, Tapos na ang panahon ng garapal na pagnanakaw," he said.
In a radio interview over the weekend, Senate finance committee chairman Franklin Drilon said the money was released from January to June 2010-an election period-even without a work program.
He said the anomaly was discovered during a hearing of the Senate oversight committee on public expenditures early this month.
"Mayroong hindi nag-e-exist, mayroong kalahati lamang. Mayroong 'yong quality, mayroon lang bato at buhangin ang kalsada," Drilon said of the farm-to-market roads on Monday.
Calling it a "road-to-my-farm allocation," the senator compared the irregularity to the fertilizer fund scam, where money to support farmers allegedly went to the campaign kitty of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Drilon told reporters that the oversight committee has started investigating the matter and may turn over its findings to the Blue Ribbon and agriculture committees for their own probe.
Pangilinan said his committee will also consider reports by the Commission on Audit showing that the money for farm-to-market roads in Maguindanao was spent for gas purchases from service stations owned by the Ampatuan clan, who were Arroyo's allies.