By Cherry Pie Eggpie Sandoval and Lollipop de los Reyes
Manila, Philippines- “Where were you when we needed you?”
The word war between Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and the groups who filed a plunder suit against him last week at the Office of the Ombudsman resumes today as the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and activist party list Anakpawis posed this inquiry to the embattled secretary in connection with the proposed oil and production subsidy for small fisherfolk affected by oil price hikes.
In July 2008, Pamalakaya forwarded a sectoral proposal to the Department of Agriculture (DA) asking Secretary Yap to immediately act on the demand of small fisherfolk battered by oil price spikes to grant the sector oil and production subsidies amounting to P 4,500 per month for fisherfolk owning small motorized boats and P 2,500 per month for fisherfolk using non-motorized boats.
The P 32-b oil and production subsidy for small fisherfolk was submitted to DA in the aftermath of typhoon Frank in 2008 and was followed up after the devastation created by typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng last year. The proposal aims to provide relief and economic assistance to some 900,000 small fisherfolk across the country.
“Secretary Yap, his apologists and his camp of inglorious bastards in DA took our request and just demand for granted,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement. The fisherfolk leader said the money for subsidies could be produced by reducing allocation for debt servicing by at least P 30-billion per year.
‘Instead of addressing the call of small fisherfolk for production and oil subsidies, Yap and company are engaged in prime time and first-rate crime of corruption,” the Pamalakaya leader added.
Pamalakaya and Anakpawis said Secretary Yap and Malacanang should hail the filing of plunder complaint in connection with the controversial P 455 million ice making machines project against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Sec. Yap, instead of dismissing the plunder complaint as nuisance suit or ideologically driven harassment.
“President Arroyo and Sec. Yap should be happy that they were given the opportunity to defend themselves against charges of first-rate crime of corruption before the Office of the Ombudsman, although this office is widely perceived as corrupt as Malacanang, the Department of Agriculture and other Arroyo infested government agencies,” the groups said.
But Pamalakaya and Anakpawis noticed that instead of welcoming the plunder charges, Malacanang spokespersons simply dismissed the plunder complaint as nuisance and plain harassment of the President and her current favorite official—Sec. Yap.
“Malacanang is sala sa lamig, sala sa init. President Arroyo should be thankful to us because we gave her the chance to defend herself and clear her name. The same applies to Sec. Yap and the rest of the agriculture officials implicated in the P 455 million ice making scandal. However, signs of guilt are now showing ahead of investigation process,” they added.
Pamalakaya and Anakpawis likewise challenged President Arroyo to compel Secretary Arthur Yap to resign as chief of the Department of Agriculture (DA) or place him under preventive suspension and force the agriculture secretary to quit from running as congressional candidate in the 3rd district of Bohol.
The groups also reiterated their demands to both chambers of Congress to investigate the unchecked and questionable operations of Nabcor, after the groups found out that in 2007, the Commission on Audit (COA) reported that the Department of Agriculture (DA) attached agency was responsible for the highly irregular procurement of post harvest facilities amounting to P 300 million during the year.
Pamalakaya and Anakpawis said part of the findings include the P95.67 million worth were outmoded, unserviceable, incomplete, missing or simply of no practical use to the recipient farmers. “Secretary Yap, his apologists and talking parrots inside DA and NABCOR are saying that all the transactions in the procurement of post harvest facilities are transparent and aboveboard, but the COA findings reveal the exact opposite,” the Pamalakaya leader said.
“It seems to us that Nabcor has been engaged in money making activity under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, and it is shielded by its nature and orientation as a government-owned and controlled corporation free from financial audit and public scrutiny,” the groups added.
Anakpawis and Pamalakaya recalled that in 2008, Nabcor got involved in a national scandal involving 1.4 million hectares of Philippine farmlands that the DA had committed to the Chinese government for the latter’s use in connection with its food program.
The deal was billed as a giant step to modernize the countryside, the deal would allow China to develop the 1.4 million hectares into a modern food-farm complex. But the purpose, according to the groups, was to serve as a major food source for the province of Heilongjiang, which had foreseen a horrendous food shortage occurring in China.
The deal is supposed to be part of the controversial NBN-ZTE deal was aborted due to the strong protest lodged by anti-corruption watchdogs.
In their 16-page plunder complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list said President Arroyo, Sec. Yap and officials of National Agribusiness Council (NABCOR), members of Awards and Bids Committee and owners and operators of Integrated Refrigeration Service System (IRRS) violated Republic Act 7080 or the Anti-Violation Plunder Law, Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act for grave misconduct.
The complainants said the agriculture department through NABCOR awarded the government contract to a lone bidder—the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS) on September 2, 2009, which will provide the ice-making unit at P 4,650,000 per unit, or about P 2.3 million higher compared to prevailing industry price for the ice-making machine.
“We will not allow this icing on the cake ice making machines scam to proceed. We will pursue this case in the Office of the Ombudsman, we will write lawmakers to investigate this latest raiding of taxpayers’ money, we will ask the Supreme Court to stop this plunder adventure of Arroyo and Yap and will aggressively explore the parliament of the street to demand truth, justice and accountability,” they said.
“We will even ask and appeal to the Chinese community in Ongpin and Binondo to denounce and disown this Chinese bureaucrat capitalist in the person of Secretary Yap for tarnishing the names of the Filipino-Chinese businessmen who want fair play and conduct honest-to-goodness business in the country,” they added.
Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list asserted that the P 455- million ice making machine scam is chiefly authored by President Arroyo and members of the syndicate operating in and out of Malacanang and in and out of the agriculture department and that Secretary Yap performed his role to the hilt as the lead actor in this newest high crime of corruption orchestrated by the ruling Mafia in the Palace.
As agreed by parties to contract, the government will pay IRSS the sum of P 455,700,000 for 98 units of ice-making machines with liquid freeze capability which will be supplied to selected municipal fish ports nationwide. But the complainants said the government can obtain 98 units of ice-making machines for P 225 million to P 230 million, or half of the quoted and agreed price with IRSS.
According to information gathered by Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list, NABCOR conducted a preliminary bidding last August 26, and IRSS which won the bidding, was only incorporated on August 25, a day before the preliminary bidding was conducted.
The groups said under Republic Act 9184 (Procuring Law), Section 37.1, the bidder must submit a copy of its single largest completed contract over the past 3 years, and such condition is impossible for IRSS, which was only incorporated on August 25, this year, a day before the preliminary bidding. The contract was finally awarded last Sept.2.
Prior to the filing of the plunder complaint, businessman Allan V. Ragasa, a complainant had filed charges against Sec. Yap and officials of NABCOR and officers of IRSS headed by its chairman Alexander Leung before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the questionable awarding of contract to IRSS. The complaint in violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and RA 9184 was filed on Nov.18, 2009. #