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Who’s behind stories against President Aquino’s sister?

/ 12:33 AM August 22, 2014

Recently, there were news reports about the Commission on Audit (COA) questioning a supposed P230-million fund from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) for a milk feeding project for pregnant women, senior citizens and children in day care, preschool, and Grade 1. The stories were follow-ups to irregularities associated with the DAP that has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. But what stuck out was the inclusion of a sister of President Aquino to the presumed irregularity.

The implementing agency was the National Dairy Authority (NDA), an agency attached to the Department of Agriculture. The beneficiaries were to be identified by the Assisi Development Foundation (ADF) led by former ambassador Howard Dee and P-Noy’s sister Victoria Elisa “Viel” Aquino Dee. I became curious and looked at the COA report.

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I found out the following:

• The COA report has not made any conclusion of any anomaly. The report was the COA’s annual audit report on the NDA, in which it only noted dubious signatures, faulty monitoring, and conflicts of interest in the procurement of the milk. The COA only asked the implementers to clarify these, which they are now in the process of doing.

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• The purpose of the program was to help children, pregnant women and senior citizens suffering from acute malnutrition. A study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute showed that 30 percent of Filipino children aged 1 to 12 are suffering from malnutrition, and that one out of five of them has acute malnutrition and are in danger of permanent brain damage, an irreversible disability.

• The beneficiaries were preidentified by 52 lawmakers and the ADF. The fresh milk was to be provided by farmer cooperatives—a move that was expected to stimulate local economic activity. The program was to provide 200-milliliter packs of milk to the beneficiaries for a period of 120 days. Some legislators specified the number of feeding periods in their districts.

• The ADF is a nonstock, nonprofit organization established in 1975, with projects including the Hapag-Asa Nutrition Program, scholarship grants and educational assistance, sustainable agriculture, water systems development, IP (indigenous peoples) advocacy, partnership with poor municipalities, and microfinance.

• The ADF did not ask to implement the milk feeding program. Instead, during a meeting of certain agencies to discuss the program, it was persuaded to take the lead because it has had previous experience in the activity. In September 2012, it entered into a memorandum of agreement with the NDA to jointly feed at least 53,800 children who are suffering from acute malnutrition. This activity was to cost the NDA P51,648,000.

• No funds were coursed to the ADF. Its main role was to identify the prospective beneficiaries of the program. The NDA was to directly pay the farmer cooperatives for the milk that was to be procured. The program was to provide each enrolled child a P16 pack of milk for 60 days over three months.

• To date, of the P51,648,000 total funding, the NDA has disbursed only P1.6 million to farmer cooperatives for milk that was given to 1,707 children in Libmanan, Camarines Sur, and Caraga/Pyagaguwan, Davao Oriental. To further augment this activity, the ADF, through its Hapag-Asa Nutrition Program, will also provide the beneficiaries with Vitameal and MannaPack hot meals worth P96 million to be covered by the ADF and its partners without any funding from the government.

The Hapag-Asa program has fed 1.5 million children—120 meals for each child, or a total of 180 million meals. The value of each meal is P30. Vitameal, a rice-and-lentil formula with high protein, vitamins and minerals, is donated by Nourish the Children (USA) and Feed the Children (PH). MannaPack consists of rice and soya enriched with vitamins and minerals, donated by the Risen Savior Mission and Feed My Starving Children, two foundations based in the United States.

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The ADF’s local partners are the Pondo ng Pinoy Community Foundation founded by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales and continued by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and Nassa (National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines under Bishop Broderick Pabillo.

Question: If only P1.6 million was paid by the NDA to farmer cooperatives out of the P51,648,000 that was released to it, where did the rest of the money go? And where did the rest of the alleged P230-million DAP milk fund go? And why was the President’s sister Viel linked to it?

Remember, like the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the milk feeding program was proposed by 52 lawmakers, including Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc. And that certainly needs to be investigated.

Was Viel’s inclusion meant to discourage an investigation because she is the President’s sister? Was her name fed to reporters by some legislators who funneled some of the fund to their favorite organizations? That certainly needs to be investigated.

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TAGS: Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, COA, Commission on Audit, Disbursement Acceleration Program, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Hapag-Asa Nutrition Program, Howard Dee, National Dairy Authority, Pondo ng Pinoy Community Foundation, President Aquino, Supreme Court, Victoria Elisa “Viel” Aquino Dee
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