Abad: P3B for DPWH, not 'Way Kurat'
MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Audit (COA) had wrongly attributed to then Compostela Valley Rep. Manuel "Way Kurat" Zamora some P3 billion in fund releases in 2007, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said Tuesday.
“The COA report is erroneous,” Abad told The STAR.
He said two special allotment release orders (SARO) were issued bearing only one number: A-07-09539.
A SARO is a Department of Budget and Management (DBM) document covering a fund release.
“One was issued on Dec. 10, 2007 for P500,000 addressed to the DPWH-Davao del Norte DEO (Department of Public Works and Highways district engineer’s office) to complete an MPB (multi-purpose building) at Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum, which should rightly be attributed to former Rep. Zamora,” Abad said.
Zamora is now the province’s vice governor.
Abad said the other SARO with the same number was issued the next day, on Dec. 11, for P3 billion to the DPWH central office for road maintenance projects nationwide.
“I have verified this with (DPWH) Secretary (Rogelio) Singson,” he said.
Abad did not try to speculate on how the COA credited the P3 billion to Zamora, but auditors obviously lumped the two SAROs together and attributed the fund releases to the then representative of Compostela Valley’s first district.
It was also not clear why Zamora funded a project in Davao del Norte. He was wrongly identified in the COA report as representative of the province’s first district.
Page 38 of the report states that a P3-billion release covered by “SARO No. A-07-095396 to DPWH-CO (central office) was intended for the implementation of projects nationwide identified by Rep. Manuel E. Zamora of the first district of Davao del Norte.”
Abad’s correction did not contain the last digit “6” in the SARO, indicating there was also an error in recording the document’s control number.
As for the ghost congressman Luis Abalos found by COA to have received a pork barrel fund of P20 million, Abad said, “This was also an error in the encoding at DBM.”
“It should be Rep. Benjamin ‘Benhur’ Abalos of Mandaluyong City,” he said.
“Finally, the SARO for P40 million attributed to President Aquino was never released. I also confirmed this with Sec. Singson,” he said.
He said he has written COA to “set the record straight” so that the necessary corrections could be made.
He pointed out that the few errors in the report should not diminish the fact that widespread irregularities were uncovered in the use of pork barrel funds.
The report “is a good starting point for the Ombudsman to further investigate and establish basis for prosecution,” Abad added.
In an interview with The STAR, Zamora said he is willing to undergo investigation or even go to jail if found guilty of wrongdoing.
“This is just to prove that I have not done anything wrong and that I have nothing to do with that money,” Zamora said.
“The SARO was very clear that it was for the whole-year nationwide preventive maintenance of the DPWH for the different roads in the country which was not pork barrel and not even a single centavo went to my district,” he said.
According to the report, Zamora topped the list of six senators and 68 congressmen who had received excess pork barrel funds on top of their annual P200-million allocation (for a senator) and P70 million (for a member of the House of Representatives).
Then Speaker Prospero Nograles was second with P136.6 million in 2008 and P264.7 million in 2009 for a total of P401.3 million.
Many of the 68 received extra funds of less than P30 million.
Among the six senators with excess allocations, Jinggoy Estrada, an Arroyo critic, received the biggest extra amount: P136.8 million in 2008 and P265.3 million in 2009 for a total of P402.1 million. With Edith Regalado