Rep. Matugas denies giving funds to fake NGOs

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/02 September) — Surigao del Norte 1st District Rep. Francisco T. Matugas has denied downloading part of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to dubious nongovernment organizations.

In a press conference Friday at his residence here, Matugas finally broke his silence over a Commission on Audit (COA) report naming him as among the lawmakers who channeled their PDAF to questionable NGOs many of which turned out to have fictitious addresses.

He said the three NGOs mentioned in the report — Dr. Rodolfo A. Ignacio Sr., Foundation Inc. (RAISFI), Philippines Environment and Ecological Development Association Inc. (PEEDA) and Kabuhayan at Kalusugang Alay sa Masa Foundation, Inc. (KKAMF) are all duly registered before the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“These are not dubious, the report of COA is not correct,” he said, adding he was in the same shoes as former Compostela Valley congressman and now Vice Gov. Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora and Senator Ralph Recto.

COA said Zamora got more than P3 billion in PDAF and Sen. Recto has unliquidated amount but the Department of Budget and Management later said the audit body had erred.

In a report released by COA covering the period 2007-2009, Matugas downloaded close to P20 million of his pork to three “questionable NGOs”.

The report showed Matugas had a total of P101.910 million in pork barrel allocation, P79.9 million of which were intended for “hard projects” or infrastructure, P8.5 million for “soft projects” which include social services, and another P13.5 million from other sources also for soft projects.

Of the total of over P22 million that Matugas had allocated during the period for soft projects, P13 million went to DRAISI, P3.395 million to KKAMFI, and P3 million to PEEDA.

COA said the pork-funded projects implemented by these NGOs were tainted with irregularities, and their addresses could not be located.

COA cited the following findings on NGO projects funded by Matugas’ pork:
1. The amount of financial assistance received by each participant was not indicated in the list;
2. Many supposed recipients did not sign in the list of participants, and in at least two such projects, no list of participants was submitted at all;
3. Many of the participants have no specific addresses and a good number were found to be not registered voters within their reported districts or towns, and some of the participants were not voters of the districts or town where they supposed come from.

Matugas admitted that there were deficiencies during the implementation of the PDAF-funded projects but that this thing is already the problem of the NGOs and the implementing agency.

He said he just identified the NGOs and that he cannot supervise over the project.

He added, “It’s not necessary that these beneficiaries are registered with the COMELEC (Commission on Elections) kay walay pili ni (because we don’t discriminate).”

He said he selected the three NGOs upon the recommendation of the implementing agency, Technologies and Livelihood Center, way back in 2007.

He said the three NGOs are all registered. But he only showed the SEC registration of PEEDA which indicated its office address as 2nd Floor COPC Bldg., A. Velez-Luna Sts., Cagayan de Oro City.

Matugas admitted that PEEDA has yet to liquidate some P300,000. He said Butch Canoy, owner of Radio Mo Nationwide is the president of the organization.

The COA report said that Matugas did not confirm the projects funded by his PDAF as he has no documents to prove.

“I am still gathering some important documents to prove that all the transactions by the NGOs are all correct,” the lawmaker explained

Matugas said he did not immediately reply after the issue came out in MindaNews because he had to retrieve some documents first.

He said the three NGOs were contemplating to file charges against the COA for the “damaging report”.

Additional fund

Matugas said that aside from his pork he got close 240 million budget from 2007 to 2009.

“At that time from 2007-2009, I got additional fund, around P240 million pesos for the concreting of the circumferential road in Siargao Island,” he said.

The additional fund was used for the completion of the Dapa-Del Carmen road (P160 million) and of the Sayak Airport in Del Carmen (P80 million).

“You can get more funds depending on your needs but being a congressman you are entitled to get P70 million each year, P40 million for hard projects and P30 million for soft projects,” he said.

Matugas said he would support the abolition of PDAF as long as [his] district will get enough funds for development projects. (Roel Catoto/MindaNews)