Pork for votes: How the Aquino administration used pork barrel for political victory


(A special report for TNT Libre)

TNT Libre Page 1 Aug 26 2013

Liberal Parties allies of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III in Iloilo province were recipients of a pork barrel largesse of not less than P100 million shortly before the 45-day campaign period leading to the May 13, 2013 elections, documents obtained by TNT Libre show.

The biggest single beneficiary of this pork barrel bonanza was Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor who received P40.5 million sometime in March 2013 as “financial assistance to the Province of Iloilo for the implementation of priority programs and projects.”

Included in this package were P14.5 million for “food subsidy, burial and medical assistance, transportation allowance and livelihood programs”, P16 million for “small and medium enterprises/livelihood”, P4.3 million as “educational assistance/scholarship program for 1,720 college students”, and P5.7 million for “educational assistance/scholarship for 11,400 students in high school”.

The Province of Iloilo has its own funds in the regular budget for assistance to persons in distress, and this pork barrel package was clearly intended to augment the Capitol’s ability to extend help to more people during the campaign, an official of the provincial government, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

The documents were made available to this paper just as thousands of Ilonggos prepare to stage a local version of the #MillionPeopleMarch this morning at the Iloilo capitol grounds. TNT Libre asked an Executive Assistant of Gov. Defensor to react to this story, but received no reply as of press time.

And even as President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III tried to defuse the public outrage over the pork barrel scandal, the documents provide evidence that his own administration has its big share of the issue on the misuse of public funds.

During the campaign, then vice gubernatorial candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Rolex Suplico had assailed what he described as the Liberal Party’s misuse of government resources to  buy votes. But his protestations fell on deaf ears.

Based on the initial batch of documents, the misuse of the pork barrel to advance the political agenda of the Aquino administration reached gargantuan proportions.

The documents made available reveal that at least P77 million of the pork barrel was disbursed just last March 2013 just before the campaign period started. “It is more in the level of P100 to 120 million,” said a source from the DBM.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, who was then general campaign manager of the LP, was pinpointed as the architect for the allocation and disbursement of pork barrel funds for political campaigning.

Twitter messages asking for his comment to his @frankahan account on the issue over the weekend were unanswered.

Six municipalities in the second congressional district of Iloilo partook of a P24.15 million package for various projects, another Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed.

The LGU of New Lucena, Iloilo got a share of P5 million, P2 million for Sta. Miguel, 5 million for Sta. Barbara, P5 million for Leganes, P2.5 million for Alimodian and P4.45 million for Zarraga, Iloilo from this package.

The special allocation for the second congressional district was intended to bolster the candidacy of Pavia municipal mayor Arcadio Gorriceta for the congressional seat then held by Augusto Boboy Syjuco, a source revealed.

Drilon and Gorriceta are considered “best friends”, which goes a long way back to their high school years.

Because Alimodian’s incumbent municipal mayor was supporting the candidacy of Dr. Ferjenel Biron of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), its allocation was channelled through the Iloilo provincial government and given directly to the barangays that expressed support for the Liberal Party, it was disclosed.

Only the municipality of Leon was excluded in the second congressional district along with the LGU of Pavia from this package.

“Leon was omitted because its municipal mayor and all barangay captains refused to shift their support to the congressional candidate of the Liberal Party in the district, Arcadio Gorriceta,” a source who was privy to the “cutting up of the cake” said.

Leon was committed to support 1-CARE party list Salvador “Kiting” Cabaluna III.

It was largely because of this pork barrel kitty that Gorriceta achieved victory at the elections in the three-way battle. Syjuco came in third.

AAMBIS/OWA party list congresswoman Sharon Garin received a portion of her 2013 PDAF (official name of the pork barrel is “Priority Development Assistance Fund”) also in March in the amount of P5.070 million, all of which was funnelled into the LGU of Guimbal.

From this amount, the sum of P4.7 million was labelled as “financial assistance to the Municipality of Guimbal, Iloilo for marginalized farmers for livelihood alleviation in Region VI thru distribution of seeds, seedlings, farm and garden tools and other suitable inputs in provinces of Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, Guimaras and Antique.”

A source familiar with the pork barrel said the use of the Guimbal LGU as conduit “is almost the same as using a fake NGO.”

“The LGU has no business managing the funds from the pork barrel when its beneficiaries are from outside its territorial jurisdiction,” she said.

But she said this has been a practice institutionalized by the Garin family “to better administer the funds and make it disappear without a trace.”

In a text message, Rep. Garin defended the action. “Guimbal is one of the beneficiaries of this project. Channeling the project to one of the beneficiary LGUs is allowed. Check DBM guidelines for this,” she said in a text message.

The Garin family jumped into the Liberal Party bandwagon along with Defensor just last year.

In another SARO, the DBM authorized the disbursement of P8.150 million to a total of 163 barangays in the fourth and fifth congressional districts, with each barangay getting a share of P50,000 as “financial assistance for the implementation of social services (such as but not limited to burial, medical, transportation, educational, food, etc) in the Province of Iloilo.”

The funds were distributed to the following LGUs: Dumangas (23 barangays), Passi City (26 barangays), Banate (16 barangays), Anilao (3 barangays), Barotac Nuevo (7 barangays), Duenas (2 barangays), San Enrique (8 barangays), San Rafael (8 barangays), Barotac Viejo (26 barangays), Concepcion (5 barangays), Ajuy (13 barangays), Lemery (5 barangays), Balasan (10 barangays), Batad (10 barangays).

In addition to these pork barrel releases by the Aquino administration, Drilon also allocated P30 million to the municipality of Sta. Barbara, Iloilo in September last year for the construction of a 3-kilometer road and P6 million to the municipality of Oton, Iloilo for a drainage project in barangay Cagbang.

Both PDAF disbursements were deemed part of Drilon’s strategy to solidy the Liberal Party’s machinery in preparation for the elections.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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