Muslim commission banned from getting 'pork'

Posted at 04/24/14 4:44 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), an agency under the Office of the President (OP) that received more than P600 million in pork barrel funds in the first two years of its existence, is now banned as a "pork" recipient and implementer.

President Aquino had it delisted in the 2013 national budget as a Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) implementing agency.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has told The STAR that the President removed NCMF as a PDAF implementer because of reports of irregularities in the use of pork barrel funds lawmakers allocated to the agency.

NCMF was created in 2010 to replace the old Office of Muslim Affairs. The commission received P96.5 million in pork barrel funds in 2011 and P514.7 million in 2012, for a total of P611.2 million, before Aquino removed it as a PDAF recipient-implementer in the 2013 budget.

Actually, in his 2011 budget proposal, the President did not include the Muslim commission as an eligible pork barrel fund recipient. It was in the Congress’ version of the budget that NCMF was inserted in the list of PDAF recipient-implementing agencies.

Aquino retained it in his 2012 budget proposal. It disappeared in the following year’s budget.

The President has said he was not sure whether the Muslim commission under his office was a PDAF implementer.

“To be perfectly candid about it, there are so many functions embodied in their charter... and I was not clearly aware or immediately aware that they were a conduit or an implementing agency for various PDAF projects,” he told a recent news conference.

The commission’s first head was Bai Omera Dianalan-Lucman, who served from March 2010 up to April 13, 2012, when former elections commissioner Mehol Sadain was appointed to replace her.

The Muslim agency’s head has the rank of a Cabinet member.

The 2011 Commission on Audit annual report for the agency does not discuss how the P96.5 million in pork barrel funds received by the Muslim commission was used. Neither does it list the lawmakers who allocated such funds.

It only lists the 15 SAROs (Special Allotment Release Order) the agency received from the Department of Budget and Management and the amount of allocations.

NCMF received one SARO for P15 million, one for P12 million, one for P2 million, one for P5 million, one for P7 million, one for P1 million, one for P3.5 million, one for P10 million, one for P5 million, one for P6 million, one for P7 million, another for P5 million, one for P3 million and two for P7.5 million each.

The report shows that as of Dec. 31, 2011, NCMF had used P70.5 million of the P96.5 million in PDAF allocations.

The 2012 annual report is more extensive. Auditors found irregularities in the use of the P515 million the agency received from Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Gregorio Honasan and 38 members of the House of Representatives, mostly belonging to party-list groups.

The funds ended up in foundations and non-government organizations (NGOs), including some identified with suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

The NGOs supposedly used the money for various livelihood projects, training and seminars for Muslim Filipinos.

“The audit team was informed that the concerned lawmakers were the ones who identified the NGOs/POs (people’s organizations), and not NCMF, as evidenced by the letters of the lawmakers to the secretary of the NCMF,” the report said.

The report classifies P25 million of the releases as coming from Malacañang’s controversial disbursement acceleration program (DAP), while the rest came from the now unconstitutional PDAF.

“It is our view that the selection of NGOs/POs should be undertaken by NCMF because the funds were released to NCMF, and therefore, the same agency is duty-bound to account for the funds to the government and/or beneficiaries,” the audit team said.

“The practice of allowing lawmakers to select NGOs/POs to implement the PDAF and DAP was not in accordance with COA Circular No. 2007-001. The selection should not be done by lawmakers but by NCMF officials having full responsibility over the funds released to them,” it said.

The circular governs the release of government funds to NGOs. It provides guidelines on the use of such funds.

The COA report lists the 18 foundations, the lawmakers who gave them funds and the amounts released to these NGOs.

The NGOs and the amounts that ended up with them were Focus on Development Goals Foundation, P30 million; Livedures Foundation, P37 million; Kaagapay Magpakainlanman Foundation, P160 million; Maharlikang Lipi Foundation, P67.7 million; Rich Islas de Filipinas Foundation, Inc., P62 million; Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation, P25.170 million; Kabalikat sa Kalusugan Foundation, P17 million; Kaisa’t Kaagapay Mo Foundation, P3 million; Workphil Foundation, P1 million; Kaakbay-buhay Foundation, P3.5 million; Pangkabuhayan Foundation, P5 million; Coprahan at Gulayan, Inc., P14 million; BL Personal Touch Foundation, P11 million; UF Multipurpose Corp., P1.1 million; and Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation, P10 million.

The report also shows that Kapuso’t Kapamilya Foundation, which Sadain claimed he had blacklisted, received P64 million through NCMF from seven House members, including a party-list representative who gave it P37 million.

He denied his agency was involved in the “pork” scam.

At least three of the 18 foundations are among NGOs that figured prominently in the COA special audit report on billions of PDAF disbursed between 2007 and 2009.

For instance, Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation received P526.7 million, according to the special report, while Pangkabuhayan Foundation, which has been linked to Napoles, received P396.1 million. Some P107.5 million went to Kapuso’t Kapamilya Foundation.