The recently published report from the Commission on Audit (COA) has confirmed what some of us have suspected all along: the current Philippine government’s policy to uplift the status of the poor could be a scam for government officials to pocket public funds. The report is also a good case against the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law or the so-called “peace agreement” the Aquino government has entered into with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
In the COA report, “a total of P670 million in pork barrel funds meant to uplift Muslim Filipinos went to dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs)”. From 2011 to 2013, two senators – Juan Ponce Enrile and Gregorio Honasan – and 47 other Aquino allies in Congress allegedly used non-existent NGOs. No wonder Muslim communities in Mindanao are still complaining about being “neglected” by the government.So far, only Janet Lim-Napoles is being prosecuted for the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam or pork barrel scam when there could be hundreds of people like her who ran bogus NGOs and who were also in cahoots with some members of Congress. The problem is, since the audit was conducted a few years after the said program was implemented, some of the NGOs were nowhere to be found. The people running them are most likely in hiding now, disappeared without a trace. It’s not fair that Napoles is the only one bearing the brunt of the pork barrel scandal witch hunt. She needs some company.
The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) seemed useless. It is supposed to be an agency formed under the Office of the President “to look after the well-being and culture preservation of Muslim Filipinos.” However, they allowed the lawmakers to select their own NGOs to implement their “pet projects” or what they claim as livelihood projects for indigent beneficiaries. This was what the report had to say:
That is simply unacceptable. So much public money is being siphoned by cunning individuals who have no qualms about robbing other people’s money. This is precisely the reason why Filipinos should reject the allocated budget for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. If the law is passed, the MILF will immediately receive P35 billion from the national government. The breakdown includes “a one-time-only fund of P1 billion for the proposed Bangsamoro Transition Authority, a P7-billion Special Development Fund aimed at rehabilitating the region, and P27-billion Annual Block Grant (ABG)”. This amount is said to be the equivalent of 4 percent of the net national internal revenue (NIR) collection of the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
The NCMF failed to monitor and assess whether the NGOs were authentic and implemented their projects, such as soap making, fish processing, candle making, haircutting and cosmetology, despite charging a 3-percent retention fee for every PDAF or DAP fund it processed, it said.
The COA said that out of the 21 NGOs that were chosen by lawmakers, 15 were either unknown or could not be located at their given addresses during the inspection conducted in January 2014.
The office addresses of six other NGOs were found, but the COA observed no existing operations in the sites.
It cited one NGO, Sinag ng Kaunlaran at Pagasa Foundation, which was granted P3 million in the PDAF of Rep. Luigi Quisumbing even though it was “barely eight months in existence without any certified proof that it had implemented similar projects when it received the fund transfer.”
At least three of the NGOs—U.F. Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Commoners Foundation Inc. and Tausog Women Producer Cooperative whose business addresses were located at Samal Village, Maluso, Basilan province; Kajzzelle Bldg., Roxas Avenue, Extension, Kalibo, Aklan province; and North Laud, Siasi, Sulu province—were not visited by the audit team due to the distance and for the safety of the team.
We are talking about billions of pesos here. If the COA can’t even trace millions of pesos coursed through “registered” NGOs, how can they trace billions of pesos which will be given to members of a Muslim terrorist group whose identities are unknown? As of this writing, Moro Islamic Liberation Front spokesperson Mohagher Iqbal hasn’t divulged his real name yet. His identity is still a mystery. It’s actually quite mind-boggling how government officials can simply play down public outrage over the fact that they have entered into a billion-peso deal with someone who is using an alias even when that alone is against the law. There’s obviously so much money to be made in this “peace” deal for all the parties involved.The proponents of the proposed law like Budget Secretary Butch Abad claim that the funds he allocated for the BBL will benefit the poorest provinces in the Mindanao region. Somehow we have heard that before. And somehow, Abad forgot to include the implementing guidelines on how the funds should be used. That’s probably because he wants the use of the funds to be at the sole discretion of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
In 2016, the current administration pushing for the BBL will not be in power anymore. The implementation of the BBL will not be their problem anymore. How can the next administration measure if the funds are actually being used to uplift the status of the region? Who will dare audit the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front once they are in power in the region and once they have access to billions in public funds? The local authorities can’t even touch them now.
Another mystery is why the lawmakers are being pressured to pass the BBL as soon as possible. Why is there a deadline? Does President BS Aquino simply want to include it in his last State of the Nation Address in June? Now that’s just lame, indeed. It’s one thing for the BS Aquino to give them a deadline, but it’s quite another for the lawmakers to give in to his demands. Are the lawmakers getting something for passing the BBL?
In life, things are not always what they seem.