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Agri Dep't finance official denies link to Napoles pork barrel scam

August 5, 2013 8:58pm
A teary-eyed official of the Department of Agriculture (DA) denied reports that she was involved in a scam that allegedly pillaged pork barrel funds, adding that she is willing to be investigated.

The department's assistant finance secretary Ophelia Agawin, who heads the committee that accredits foundations, went on to say that she is not close to Janet Lim Napoles, suspected to be the mastermind of a P10-billion pork barrel scam involving ghost projects allegedly used for kickbacks by lawmakers.

"Wala po kaming tinatago. Lahat po ng ginawa namin ay base lang po 'dun sa pagpaprocess at pag-accredit, kaya po anytime, payag akong magpa-imbestiga," Agawin said in a "24 Oras" report.

Agawin had been implicated in the fertilizer fund scam where she was accused as public accountant in cahoots with then-Agriculture Undersecretary Joc-Joc Bolante. The scam involved funds that were supposedly diverted to the campaign kitty of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 presidential polls instead of being distributed to the farmer-beneficiaries. The charges were later junked.

This time, Agawin was accused by whistleblower Merlina Suñas as a conduit to approve bogus foundations to funnel funds into.

"Bago sila maglabas ng kahit na ano sa dyaryo, sana check-in at magtanong kung ito'y totoo. Nakakasira ito sa tao, hindi lang po sa akin, dala ko rin po pamilya ko, 'yun po ang pinakamasakit," a visibly hurt Agawin said.

Suñas has cited as bogus Kaupdanan para sa Manguguna Foundation Inc., which was approved by Agawin despite being under the scrutiny of the Commission on Audit (COA) for its alleged involvement in the Malampaya fund scam.

Agawin said the foundation was legitimate with real beneficiaries.

"As far as I'm concerned, base po sa accreditation, sila po ay lehitimong foundation," she said.

Agawin added that a validation report by the COA, DA and local government units showed that the foundation has actual beneficiaries.

"Base po sa kanilang sinampling, ito po ay meron din namang delivery," she said.

Meanwhile, the whistleblowers' lawyer Levito Baligod had said they did not intend to drag Agawin into the scam.

He said Agawin was just involved due to her signing the accreditation papers of the bogus groups.

Lawmakers involved
A report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which broke the story on the scam, named five senators and 23 members of the House of Representatives who allegedly made their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations available to Napoles’ group.
According to the article, Senator Bong Revilla topped the list with 22 instances recorded at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
He is followed by former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile with 21, Senate Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada with 18, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. with four, and Sen. Gringo Honasan with one.

Napoles has denied the allegations against her. Marc Jayson Cayabyab/BM, GMA News
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