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Malampaya claim shows pork-barrel tale a scam

It is the pork-barrel-scam accusers’ allegation that P900 million in Malampaya Funds were stolen by one Janet Lim-Napoles that reveals that the claims are an utter fabrication, even a sloppy one at that. How the Malampaya funds got into the picture also points to the brains of this propaganda plot.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer in its July 16 banner headline titled “Malampaya Fund lost P900 M in JLN racket” reported the accusations:

• “At least P900 million from royalties in the operation of the Malampaya gas project off Palawan province intended for agrarian reform beneficiaries has gone into a dummy nongovernment organization (NGO), according to an affidavit on a P10-billion racket submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

• The Department of Agrarian Reform, then headed by Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, was the implementing agency of the oil funds.

The DAR has never been “the implementing agency of the oil funds” and has never had any involvement as conduit for those moneys. The DAR is not one of the three departments—the budget, finance and energy—which under a Joint Circular of January 2008 managed the release and utilization of a portion of the Malampaya Funds, that allocated for Palawan.

The DAR never got P900 million from the Malampaya funds earmarked for agrarian reform beneficiaries or for disbursement to NGOs under the pork-barrel system.

Audits by the Commission on Audit of the DAR from 2008 to 2012 do not contain any single reference to a Malampaya Fund in the department’s budget and expenditures.

In July 2011, obviously exasperated over the wild, ignorant charges hurled in a Senate investigation, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad clarified that the bulk of the P79.5 billion share of the government, or 60 percent of the Malampaya gas field’s income, formed part of the state’s revenues, as much as customs duties and income taxes are.

However, for accounting purposes, to comply with certain provisions of Presidential Decree No. 910 that legally governs the Fund, and to support the government’s priorities, part of the funds received by various departments for certain projects were booked by the Budget Management and the Treasury as coming from the Malampaya Fund, code named “Fund 151”.

The departments didn’t even know that the funds they were getting from the Treasury were booked as such. Even the Commission on Audit obviously didn’t, as there was no reference at all to a Malampaya Fund in its audit reports for the years 2009 to 2012 for the DAR and for three other departments I checked.

For instance, the P423 million used for the purchase of a US Coast Guard cutter that became the BRP Gregorio del Pilar in 2011 was booked as coming from the Malampaya Fund, and so were the Aquino administration’s emergency P2 billion funding for the fuel requirements of National Power Corp. and its P450 million Pantawid Pasada fuel subsidy last year to jeepney and tricycle operators last year to prevent them form striking.

During President Arroyo’s term, certain budgets of government agencies—such as the P1 billion for the Armed Forces Modernization Fund, P7.7 billion for infrastructure projects, and P4 billion for agriculture—were booked as coming from “Fund 151.” Some P900 million of the DAR’s budget was similarly booked, which the ignorant pork-barrel-scam scam artists thought were given to the DAR to be disbursed at their officials’ discretion.

The confusion of the accusers—or their puppet masters— arose from the fact that out of the Malampaya Funds from 2004 to 2008, P3.9 billion were remitted to the Palawan local governments on the provincial, city, and municipal levels, which had features of a pork-barrel fund in that local politicians could direct where and how it would be used.

This was the result of an interim, compromise agreement with the national government since the province had filed a case that reached the Supreme Court claiming most of the state’s shares, on grounds that the gas field was within its boundaries, and therefore it owns 40 percent of the national government’s share revenues, according to the Internal Revenue code.

It was the Department of Energy which acted as conduit of the funds and which evaluated the projects these would finance. These projects were required to be mainly for infrastructure and electrification in Palawan. Agrarian reform projects or those related to this program were not included as eligible to be financed by the Malampaya project.

The COA’s 2012 report on the P1.36 billion Malampaya funds disbursed through the DOE to Palawan from 2004 to 2007 concluded that P131 million (9.6 percent of the total) were still unliquidated, mainly by the Public Works department for road projects.

Strangely, there have been reports in media that the COA’s Fraud and Investigation Office and the Ombudsman have been investigating the second disbursement to Palawan made in 2008 amounting to P2.6 billion. However, the COA’s 2011 annual report said that it had already audited these funds, and its main conclusion:

“The (Palawan) Bids and Awards Committee awarded the 217 infrastructure projects with total cost of P1.714 billion to the contractors without posting the Invitation to Apply for Eligibility and to Bid in the Government Electronic Procurement System and in the agency website as required in Sections 8.2.1 and 21.2 of R.A. No. 9184.

Without such posting, widest dissemination of IAEB and best prices for the projects were not secured.”

So were in the world did the “scam” scam artists get the idea of claiming that P900 million from Malampaya funds were stolen by Napoles?

In November 2012, there was attempt to link President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to allegations that she was involved in a “Malampaya scam”. The propaganda operation—the venue for which were solely reports in ABS-CBN television network—claimed that “ghost NGOs” in Arroyo’s home province Pampanga were the recipients of these funds. The operation fizzled out because of its sheer nonsense.

And what was the figure claimed in that smear job? An ABS-CBN News article on November 29, 2012 titled “More NGOs that got Malampaya money go missing” reported:

“In 2009, the entire P900 million given to DAR from the Malampaya fund was distributed to various NGOs . . . with the agreement that the groups would be the ones to distribute the funds in DAR’s behalf.”

The article did not explain where it got the P900 million figure, or what agency reported it. Those allegations fizzled out, since they were clearly fabricated and preposterous.

The tale of Napoles stealing P900 million from Malampaya funds is obviously regurgitation—a sloppy one at that—of a propaganda script in 2012, at that time targeting Arroyo. I strongly suspect the present fabrication was concocted while the accuser Benhur Luy was kept at the NBI headquarters since April.

The same brains obviously dusted off his old playbook— even if it had failed—so that the targets this time are the three senators who could make a bid for the presidency, or the vice presidency in 2016: Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. , and Jinggoy Estrada.

Conveniently for the plotter, he found a desperate low-life to scream the fabrication in media.

It was only yesterday that it was disclosed that charges had been filed at the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 265 against the principal accuser, the 31-year old Benhur Luy, for pocketing P300,000 of the money Ms. Napoles—which he has accused of being the “scam’s” mastermind—asked him to deposit in the bank. The complaint was made in April and the judge found probable cause for him to be put in jail.
Guess when did the Court issue the arrest warrant?

July 5, a few days before his accusations were first printed. in the Philippine Daily Inquirer July 12.

The other day, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima—the Justice secretary for Chrissakes, who is the principal officer of the Republic charged with implementing the law of the land—refused to turn him over to the Court, claiming that Luy is under her Witness Protection Program. Since when can a protection program countermand a Court order?

A suspected thief using media to hurl charges of a scam involving billions of pesos, accusing five senators including the Senate President and seven congressmen of complicity – so he won’t be arrested.

Definitely a cliché, but I just can’t resist saying it: “Only in the Philippines.”