In March last year, the Philippine Senate made public its conclusion that the Department of Agriculture (DA) had actually mismanaged the P728-million fund supposedly as fertilizer support for farmers. The Senate probe into the actual use of the fund was prompted by the claim that the fund was actually used for the campaign of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her Presidential bid in 2004.
The Department was also embroiled in the misuse of the recovered Marcos ill-gotten wealth amounting to P544-million. The fund was supposed to be used in the procurement of hybrid rice seeds and their distribution to qualified farmer-beneficiaries. However, based on a study, which the Senate confirmed, part of the fund was actually released to DA’s regional units to give to local officials to ensure their support for Arroyo’s electoral campaign. The DA could not produce the list of farmer-beneficiaries that were supposed to receive the hybrid seeds.
Now, the DA is in the crosshairs again. The Commission on Audit (COA) found that it misused a P2-million fund that was supposed to be used as emergency livelihood funds for farmers. According to the report by inquirer.net:
In its 2006 audit report on the DA, the COA declared that the various expenses spent by the management in the total of P2,099,196.66, supposedly earmarked for the Support for Emergency Livelihood Assistance Program (SELAP), were not “legitimate expenditures” of the program.
These expenses were payment for oil and fuel consumption of all office vehicles, office renovation, procurement of tires, television sets, and office curtains, the report enumerated.
Based on the SELAP guidelines, the funds have been allotted for farm-to-market roads, post-harvest facilities, irrigation and livelihood projects and rural infrastructure projects.
The COA report then argues that “in effect, funds intended for rural infrastructure projects were not utilized in accordance with the purpose, thus, depriving the rural folks of availing the benefits for their socio-economic upliftment.”
COA also revealed that several officers in four regional field units (II, IV, XI, XIII) used the DA funds to buy more than one mobile phone (some of which were “sophisticated”), thus, violating the COA order as well as defying Secretary Yap’s order limiting the provision of cellphones and prepaid cards to division chiefs only. Fund used to buy these mobile phones (202 all in all) amounted to over P2-million.
I wonder if the COA report is just a prelude to a wave of exposes on the DA, in the wake of its controversial farm deals with China. This is not definitely good for DA, which has been considered by the business community as one of the government agencies with bad reputation for corruption.
Some Congresspersons, as Negros Occidental 1st District Rep. Iggy Arroyo has claimed, want DAR’s beneficiary development functions transferred to the DA. They’re asking for more troubles. They should set aside that idea until the DA has been cleansed of corruption.