The ghost of the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) declared illegal by the Supreme Court continues to hound former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary, now 3rd district Congressman Arthur Yap even as the Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to elevate a graft and malversation complaint before the Sandiganbayan.
Yap, together with former Nueva Ecija 4th district Representative Rodulfo Antonino and five others allegedly diverted P14.5 million for a “ghost livelihood project” to the defunct National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR), which according to a Commission on Audit Special Report is not listed as one of the implementing agencies of PDAF.
According to the Ombudsman, Yap upon the request of Antonino to transfer his PDAF to NABCOR based on a memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed by Yap and NABCOR President Alan Javellana.
The P14.5 million PDAF of Antonino was released by NABCOR to Buhay Mo Mahal Ko Foundation Inc. (BMMKFI), a questionable non government organization (NGO) headed by Marilou Antonio who signed a MOA with Javellana two days before Yap signed the MOA with NABCOR.
The P14.5 million was allegedly used to purchase 7,275 sets of Livelihood Technology kits exclusively from publishing company CC Barredo at P2,000 per kit, according to the COA report.
According to the Ombudsman, the kits were allegedly delivered by Antonino to one city and seven towns in Nueva Ecija but government officials of these towns did not receive the livelihood kits.
The COA report said that the project remains unliquidated.
NABCOR is the corporate arm of the DA mandated to invest in agribusiness enterprises in the countryside to improve the productivity and income of the local farmers. It also raises funds through loans and grants and privagte sector investment through joint ventures.
According to the COA Special Report, P1.35 million in the PDAF were funneled to NABCOR from 2007 – 2011.
Yap was the 32nd agriculture secretary serving the Arroyo administration, first holding the position from August 2004 to July 2005. He was reappointed in 2006 and served up to 2010 before he resigned to run for congressman in the 3rd district of Bohol. He is now in his third and last term.
YAP: RAPS BASELESS
Yap said he will take legal steps to clear his name as he asserted his innocence in a graft case that the Ombudsman will file against him and former Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino in connection with the implementation of a Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) project when Yap was still agriculture secretary.
Yap, who was secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA) during the former Arroyo administration, pointed out in a statement that he did not commit any act of graft or malversationâ€”as claimed by the Ombudsmanâ€”because he had, as required by law, merely transferred ex-Rep. Antoninoâ€™s PDAF allocation at the DA to another government agency tasked to implement the former solonâ€™s identified project. â€œI will fight this case because my transfer of lawmakers’ PDAF allocation to another government office which implemented the project cannot be considered as graft,â€ Yap said. Yap pointed out that, â€œMy transfer of funds was legal and I am innocent of any wrong doing.â€ â€œI merely transferred government funds from one government office to another government office,â€ he stressed. â€œHow can that be considered graft?â€ Yap said, â€œI did not transact with any foundation or NGO (nongovernment organization) for the implementation of any project and my participation was merely to transfer funds as I was required to do by law.â€ It’s like the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) transferring funds to other government agencies,â€ he said. â€œDoes that make the DBM secretary accountable and liable for the implementation of all projects of all the government agencies it transferred funds to?â€ Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales bared on Tuesday that she had ordered the filing of two counts of graft and two counts of malversation against Antonino in connection with a PDAF-funded purchase of livelihood training kits for the NGO-beneficiary Buhay Mo Mahal Ko Foundation Inc. (BMMKFI). These kits were supposedly acquired from the C.C. Barredo Publishing House. Also facing charges for the same case, according to Morales, are Yap and other DA officials along with BMMKFI and Barredo Publishing executives.