NABCOR spent P455M on 'overpriced' machines

Posted at 03/19/14 8:59 PM

Losing bidder says Yap offered P10M to keep quiet

Yap belies claim, denies overpricing of ice-making machines

MANILA - More irregularities are being uncovered in the use of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) by the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR).

Take for instance the P455-million budget sourced from ACEF to buy ice-making machines in 2010.

Aside from being overpriced, the machines have remained idle and are still waiting for distribution, 4 years after they were purchased.

The first ice-making machine was delivered to serve as storage for products of farmers and fishermen at a vegetable market in Sariaya, Quezon in January 2010.

This and 97 other machines allegedly worth P455 million were all drawn from ACEF, a government program initiated in 1996.

ACEF was meant to help farmers improve the volume and quality of their produce in time for ASEAN integration in 2015.

But when ABS-CBN News inspected the site, the ice-making machine was no longer there.

It was never used and nobody has any idea where it is now.

"Ang kailangan namin, iyung aming gulay, maiproseso, hindi mai-freezer. Kasi kapag nai-freezer namin iyan, wala nang kalidad iyung gulay namin," said Sofronio Pagkaliwagan, vice-president of a farmers' group in Sariaya.

Pagkaliwagan was surprised when told the machine was valued at P4.65 million.

"Kung ibinigay na lang sa amin, traktora o pera na mahihiram ng aming mga miyembro," he said.

Based on the findings of the group Pamalakaya, each unit was overpriced by P2.3 million, and most of them did not even reach the farmers.

The group later sued former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, former President Gloria Arroyo, and NABCOR officials for plunder.

Current Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala used to be congressman of Quezon.

Alcala himself admitted that some ice-making machines were not delivered to the farmers.

"Ang sabi ko, kung meron naman diyan, huwag namang hindi pakinabangan, so pinade-deliver po natin," he said.


Two of the losing bidders in the project have come forward and talked to ABS-CBN News.

But they requested that their identities be kept secret.

One bidder alleged that Yap offered him P10 million in exchange for their silence.

"Sabi nila bigyan ka na lang ng P10 million. Outright sinabi ko, hindi ko kailangan ng P10 million," he said.

"Ang ginawa ni Secretary noon, tinawagan ako. Si Secretary Yap. Aniya, 'Buti pa, pag-usapan niyo na lang iyan. Kasi tatakbo ako, baka tamaan yung pagrun ko ng congressman ko sa Bohol," the source added.

"Tayo nananawagan sa Ombudsman at si President Aquino... na ito, panagutin niya," another bidder said.

Yap, who is now congressman of Bohol, denies the allegations.

"Wala po akong kinausap diyan dahil hindi ako puwedeng makialam. Independent po ang operations ng NABCOR sa DA. The machines are 24% cheaper than market price for equivalent machines. Mura po ang equipment at walang overpricing. The deal is aboveboard," he said in a statement.

He claimed that he was never involved in NABCOR transactions.


Rhodora Mendoza, former NABCOR vice president, is also accusing her former boss, then NABCOR president Alan Javellana, of advancing payments to suppliers even before they completed the documentation.

She brought out a copy of a P105-million check, which she failed to properly sign, but was encashed just the same.

"Hindi siya iyun iyung specimen signature ko na alam kong nasa bank," Mendoza said.

A COA report shows the bidding should have been declared a failure on grounds that the winner didn't have the financial capability to supply the machines.

Mendoza said she found out later from a COA report that the P91-million that NABCOR paid to the supplier in advance was used by the winning bidder as start-up capital.

According to COA, this was a clear violation of the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

But before the anomalies in PDAF and ACEF were exposed in public, Mendoza got wind of some irregularities worth around P300 million in the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani program of the NABCOR during the Arroyo administration.

This was part of a project awarded to 12 different nongovernment organizations for a technical study worth P105 million, without public bidding.

She was surprised that her own office mates were doing the study.

"I found out because of the coupon bond," she said. "Ang sabi ko bakit dito iyan piniprint. 'Ay ma'am kasi ini-email po sa amin."

Mendoza and another former NABCOR official, Victor Cacal, have been charged with plunder for the PDAF scam.

They say they were only used by their superiors.

"Masasabi ko na victim ako. Pero masasabi ko pa rin na susi ako para may maisiwalat," Mendoza said.

"Bahala na mangyari sa amin, basta ang importante, ang totoo lumabas," Cacal said. - WITH ANC