The Filipino chairman of a Canada-based organization fighting global corruption is refuting allegations that he diverted government funds for development projects to line his own pockets.
Edgardo J. Angara, a former Philippine Senator has become ensnared in a widening corruption scandal in the Philippines allegedly masterminded by a powerful businesswoman who collaborated with lawmakers to channel Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) cash via fake non-governmental associations.
A government audit has found that $141 million allocated over a three-year period for PDAF commonly known as pork barrel funds was released to questionable aid groups and ghost projects.
The so-called pork barrel funds are part of the national budget intended for “local improvements” that are spent at the discretion of elected officials, from the President down to local officials.
Angara, who was a four time Filipino Senator was recently-elected as chairman of the Ottawa-based Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption or GOPAC.
A Philippine government audit on the funds names Angara, and raises concerns about PDAF grants directed by his office between 2007 and 2009 via his Kalusugan ng Bata, Karunungan ng Bayan Foundation which supports a school feeding program for 17,000 school children in 47 public elementary schools.
GOPAC in a statement said Angara has made it clear that he intends to dispute and refute any allegations of impropriety in his work with the PDAF and clear his name, and that he will co-operate fully with the relevant Philippine authorities investigating the matter.
“Mr Angara has informed GOPAC that, in accordance with our governance policies, he will submit a documentary report to the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for its review, which is charged with determining next steps,” the statement said.
GOPAC said the allegations are still in the process of being investigated and validated by the Philippines’ Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Council (IAGC).
“In the interest of proceeding impartially, fairly and with full information to uphold our Code of Conduct, GOPAC looks forward to the IAGC’s findings and to receiving Mr Angara’s report.”
GOPAC is a worldwide alliance of parliamentarians working together to combat corruption, strengthen good government, and uphold the rule of law. Based in Ottawa, Canada, GOPAC has 54 national chapters on 5 continents. GOPAC supports its members’ efforts through original research, global anti-corruption capacity building, and international peer support.
In Manila, as street protests erupted over the abuse of the funds by lawmakers, Angara categorically denied he had done anything wrong.
“I reject this insinuation that my funds went to fictitious, no-address, unaccountable NGOs. Please underscore that. My reputation has been damaged already,” said Angara.
“For the past 34 years I have done public service and have never been linked to any anomaly or wrongdoing… This (his foundation) is a genuine civic organization only for kids. No one benefited from it except the children,” said Angara
Meanwhile, the woman at the centre of the scandal, Janet Lim-Napoles is in the custody of Philippine National Police (PNP) in Fort Sto. Domingo, Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
Napoles surrendered to President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace after coming out of hiding.
The investigations were triggered by Benhur K. Luy, Napoles’ former personal assistant who turned whistleblower.
The Filipino Post last week reported that Napoles described the whistleblower an “extrortionist’ who wanted her to finance his immigration to Canada.
She said that Luy’s lawyers “also demanded I facilitate the issuance of Canadian visas for all the Luy family plus pocket money amounting to $1.5 million and the setting up of a pharmacy that will serve as the business of the youngest Luy sibling who is not going to Canada,”
“It is clear that extortion and blackmail are the motives behind this,” said Napoles who has denied the allegations that she masterminded the alleged scam involving pork barrel funds of lawmakers over the past 10 years.