DAR denies releasing Malampaya funds

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MANILA, Philippines – Days after a farmer group accused government officials of misusing millions from the Malampaya Fund, the Department of Agrarian Reform says it never received any portion of the fund during the term of President Benigno Aquino III.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on Monday, January 20, filed a plunder case against Aquino, DAR secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and 9 others before the Ombudsman.

The group accused the officials of channeling Malampaya funds into bogus NGOs and purchasing farming products that never reached their intended beneficiaries.

The group claimed that a total of P125 million was misused. P100 million went to organic farming projects of WorkPhil Foundation and Samahang Magsasaka sa Kapatagan at Kabundukan that supposedly were never implemented. Another P25 million was allegedly distributed to 5 NGOs for agricultural development projects that were never realized.
The funds would've never reached the NGOs without the knowledge of the accused officials, said KMP.

Internal investigation

But far from being involved in the plundering of the fund, the DAR even initiated an investigation before the issue reached the media, said DAR Undersecretary Anthony Paruñgao.

After getting reports that beneficiaries of the fund never received financial support from the DAR in 2009, "the Office of the Secretary directed its Internal Audit Service in November 2012 to conduct an investigation, which began the following month," he said.

He added that the DAR turned over to the Commission of Audit (COA) and National Bureau of Investigation copies of documents it obtained during their internal investigation. The COA is now conducting its own investigation into the issue.

“The DAR has shown its readiness and willingness to cooperate in any investigation on the Malampaya fund issue, and it will continue to do so as the processes progress,” Paruñgao said.

He admitted there were releases of funds in 2011 but was quick to add that these "did not emanate from the Malampaya funds."

The DAR began investigating these fund releases in July 2012. The Depatment of Justice (DOJ) has already been given copies of reports and documents from the DAR investigation that may aid them in conducting a deeper probe, said Paruñgao.

"We are also ready and willing to cooperate in any investigation on this matter,” he added.

The Malampaya Fund is a multi-billion fund that comes from the operation of the Malampaya deep water gas-to-power facility off the coast of Palawan.

Presidential Decree 910 mandates that the fund should be used only for energy resource development and exploration programs and projects.

Aside from government officials, KMP also filed charges against alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and her former employee and now state witness Benhur Luy. Rappler earlier reported how Napoles obtained almost P1 billion from the Malampaya Fund. – Rappler.com

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