Makabayan solons deny involvement in feeding program irregularities

“We emphasize that not a single centavo of funding for the two projects passed through our hands. We had absolutely no role whatsoever in the procurement of supplies and disbursement of funds for the project, which were the exclusive function of the NDA [National Dairy Authority].” — ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Representatives from the Makabayan bloc denied any involvement in irregularities in the P230 million ($5.259 million) milk feeding program, which was funded by the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

The Milk Feeding Program, which was implemented by the National Dairy Authority (NDA), was questioned in the annual report of the Commission on Audit (Coa).

The solons said they had no knowledge that the funds for the Milk Feeding Program was coursed through the DAP.

The COA report said that out of the 57 feeding projects by 52 proponents, “only 87 percent or P145.69 million ($3.331 million) was obligated, and out of which, a total of P87 million ($1.989 million) or 59.7 percent was disbursed for 33 projects.” Funds worth P167 million ($3.828 million) or 73 percent were released in September 2012.

Since the DAP was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the COA recommended that the unutilized funds be returned to the Bureau of Treasury.

The NDA’s milk feeding program meant to provide 200-milliliter packs of milk to pregnant women, senior citizens and children in day care centers, pre-school and grade one pupils in areas identified by the legislators for a period of 120 days.

The COA report also said that there was no assurance that the 6,684,644 packs of milk worth P87 million and meant for 104,575 beneficiaries under the Milk Feeding Program of 31 legislators were completely delivered “due to questionable signatures affixed to the documents and incomplete documents supporting the transactions.”

Among the lawmakers who were proponents of the said program were Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Emmi De Jesus and ACT Teachers Party Rep. Antonio Tinio. The Makabayan bloc are vocal critics of DAP and pork barrel funds.

In a statement, De Jesus said her office has been allotted P2.496 million ($57,077) worth of milk feeding grants by the NDA. “But the COA finding that included the discovery of bidding procedure problems … can only be traced to executive actions of the NDA alone. My office was never a part of the loop for the bidding procedures, and not even made a part of information sharing for the bidding, processes which are NDA’s own.”

De Jesus said they were asked to identify school beneficiaries for the milk feeding program of the NDA. She said they identified two schools in Central Luzon, namely Gueco Elementary School in Angeles City, and Iram Elementary School in Olongapo.

De Jesus said their office was told that the milk feeding program was part of the NDA’s budgeted projects that needed implementation. De Jesus said that after she suspected irregularities in the project’s origins, she wrote the NDA that she will uphold whatever decision the Supreme Court will issue on the DAP. She added that her office “will no longer pursue the assigned allotment meant for a school in Sorsogon.”

Tinio said he also endorsed two milk feeding projects to be implemented under the NDA’s milk feeding program in response to a communication from the office of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. He identified the beneficiaries as 1,562 pupils in Romana Acharon Central Elementary School in General Santos City and 3,645 pupils in 45 public elementary schools in Rosario, Batangas.

The projects cost P3 million and P7 million ($160,073), respectively.

The pupil-beneficiaries were to be provided every school day with 200 milliliters of chocolate-flavored milk for a total of 120 feeding days.

Tinio said they stand by the reports of the Department of Education personnel involved in the implementation of the two projects, including district supervisors, principals, and teachers, that the projects were fully implemented, deliveries of the required quantities of milk were actually received by teachers, and these were actually distributed to their students.

“We emphasize that not a single centavo of funding for the two projects passed through our hands. We had absolutely no role whatsoever in the procurement of supplies and disbursement of funds for the project, which were the exclusive function of the NDA,” Tinio said.

In the COA report, funds for the milk feeding program was disbursed to ACT Teachers Partylist but lacks supporting documents such as nutritional profile and attendance report or distribution list among others.

“We also wish to make it clear that our statements apply exclusively to the two projects proposed by ACT Teachers, not to any other milk-feeding projects implemented by the NDA.”

Tinio added, “We were also dismayed to learn, only recently, in the light of the controversy over President Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, that funding for the NDA’s Milk Feeding Program, including the two projects we identified, was sourced through the DAP, which we have consistently opposed. At the time, we assumed that the program was a regular program of the NDA, with funding from its regular appropriations.”

Meanwhile, Tinio said that the NDA Milk Feeding Coordinator in Davao Field Office should be investigated. “We view with great concern the COA observation that there appears to have been an anomaly in the NDA’s procurement of supplies. This irregularity should be immediately investigated.”

According to the COA report, there is a “pecuniary interest” on the part of NDA Milk Feeding Coordinator in Davao Field Office who also represented the supplier of pasteurized/sterilized choco flavored milk packs worth of P10.7 million ($245,483) for the feeding projects of six legislators.

De Jesus reiterated “I stand firm with the Makabayan position that the DAP is unconstitutional and involved the biggest fund management irregularity of this administration.” ()

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