NGAS: The Effect of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) Scam on the Plight of Farmers
Overview on the Priority Development Fund (PDAF)
The recent PDAF scam (or pork barrel scam) has put into shambles any significant progress in the implementation of the New Government Accounting System of the Philippines (NGAS) - more so, towards the farming sector .The accounting for budgetary accounts under the Article VI of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, specifically states that no money shall come out of the national coffers unless in pursuant to or by appropriation of law.
NGAS was prescribed by the Commission on Audit (COA) under authority of the 1987 Constitution to serve as a tool for evaluating the performance of key government agencies against financial targets. The recent PDAF scam tends to nullify what these targets are all about.
The shift to NGAs from the manual system of accounting was in response to the need of responsibility accounting in government service, to generate more accurate reports on a timely basis. These reports serve as tools for managers to effectively monitor their Agency performance to come up with better decisions and strategies.
The scope of NGAs spells out the responsibility of public officers on the resources that are entrusted to them. The accounting data determines whether a particular agency is hitting its targets on the use of government resources/fund allotments, or not.
Janet Lim-Napoles mugshot - Public Domain
Poll on PDAF Scam
Should the Pork Barrel Fund be abolished?
PDAF and the NGAS Guidelines
Under the specific guidelines of NGAs, public monies should be duly accounted for, and only be used for specified government projects.If the guidelines were set and adequate controls were introduced prior to adoption, how then did the pork barrel scam came about?
The strict control measures on the check and balance under the New Government Accounting System (NGAS), should have been a deterrent to dissuade anybody from illegally dipping their hands on the SARO (Special Allotment Release Order) of legislator’s PDAF allocation, without prior authorization.
But, with the collusion of officials in several branches of the government, a scam can reach to massive proportions, reaching to billions of pesos --- for the longest time.
The PDAF, or the pork barrel scam, may be compared to the 2001 Enron scandal in the United States that most accountants are still ashamed to even remember. It was a scandal that was perpetrated by the top officers of the company in connivance with their corporate auditors.
It led to the downfall of Enron, with vast political and financial repercussions, that shocked the accountancy profession around the world . The first casualty was its auditor, Arthur Andersen. Other company officials and members of the audit team followed soon after.
Shame and Scandal on Pdaf Misuse
The recent PDAF scam is a grave political scandal that shames the entire Philippine government for the amount involved. For a financially struggling economy like the Philippines, some Pesos P3 Billion was misappropriated into the pockets of politicians in connivance with its alleged mastermind, JanetLim Napoles. How the scam managed to drag on for several years (2003 to 2013) without anybody waving the red flag, is confounding.
Janet Lim-Napoles has a soft spot for agriculture, so most of the PDAF funds of legislators were allotted to farmers and fisherfolks. She was initially implicated in the 2004 Fertilizer Fund Scam a few years back, but the testimony of her second cousin and former personal assistant, Benhur K. Luy, expanded the expose to a wider scam involving PDAF.
The scam, which provoked public outrage, involved funding of ghost projects through the use of the pork barrel funds of legislators. At present, each congressman gets P70Million allotment per year; and the honorable senators, P200Million each.
- It is estimated that the Philippine government lost some ₱10 billion from 2003 to 2013;
- The scam was exposed by Benhur K. Luy, 2nd cousin and former personal assistant of alleged mastermind, Janet Lim Napoles;
- Pork barrel fund started during the American colonial period in 1922 and re-established during the administration of the late former President Corazon Aguino;
- When former President Gloria Arroyo stepped down in 2010, the pork barrel fund amounted to ₱10.86 billion. It has doubled to approximately ₱24.62 billion under the present term of President Benigno Aguino III.
- The investigation is still ongoing with the Department of Justice taking the lead.
Senate's 7th Hearing on the PDAF Scam
Misallocation of Funds for Farmers
Napoles siphoned off most of the funds to supposedly buy agricultural inputs for farmers. These projects were processed through the fake foundations of Napoles, with the politicians pocketing from 40 to 50 percent of the total amount. The rest was retained by Napoles and farmed out to local officials and the bureaucracy, including some members of the media.
News of fund releases to the agricultural sector were welcome news for the group, but nothing ever comes out of it. All of it was mere lip service --- with promises of free fertilizers, seeds, and chemicals that only came in --- in trickles.
After the PDAF scam bombed last year, farmers now know why they didn’t receive the agricultural inputs as have been bruited about by the local Department of Agriculture technicians. It was shamelessly stolen; and nothing ever went to their fields, that were worth mentioning about.
Top 5 Members of Congress and Senate Identified with the Highest PDAF Exposure
Amount of Exposure
Juan Ponce Enrile
Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
The Plight of the Filipino Farmer
The rainy season has started and farmers are now beginning to till the land for the next cropping season. All farmers usually start at the same time;and during the rainy months of May to June, most agricultural fields are tilled and harrowed when the rains begin to pour.
The start of the rainy season is a signal for farmers to start preparing the seed beds, clean up the dikes, and prepare the field for planting. They knew that they are rushing against time once the seed beds are prepared.
They only have from two to three weeks before they start planting rice. Having enough rains would mean, that there will be fewer expenses for crude oil in running their un-irrigated lands.
The irrigated farms in the northern part of the Philippines would not have much of a problem during the summer months, but may face the lack of irrigated water in case enough rains don’t fall as scheduled.
Undue delay for one cropping would mean that the planting cycle will be affected, and the next cropping season beginning November to January will also be delayed.
Farmers face great adversity if they don't foresee climatic changes and act accordingly. Any delay on their part could lead to pests attacking their fields. The weather can play havoc on the crops, when typhoons and flooding occurs and could lead to financial losses
When this happens, the farmer can only pity themselves on seeing their harvestable crops drowned out in flood waters, that could last for several months on end.
Rice Farmers in the Phlippines
Problems That Farmers are Faced With
Farm inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, and labor expenses are wasted whenever floods occur. This is true for agricultural sites near the Laguna de Bay area. The bay serves as a catch basin for flood waters not to reach Metro Manila. The repercussion is we see flood waters reaching the rooftops of houses, leaving the entire barrio abandoned until the waters subside several months after.
The presence of technicians from the Department of Agriculture (DAR) plays a big role in introducing farm innovations to the farmer groups. They also served as implementors on the dispersal of agricultural inputs like fertilizers and seeds from the government. They even lend out farm equipment to farmers on a first come, first served basis.
There are a number of good projects from the DAR, regarding dispersal of new seeds to farmers who are willing to plant them. Assistance by way of weekly monitoring is done by DAR technicians to make the Algeria venture a success.
Since these are hybrid seeds that oftentimes need more farm inputs (fertilizers, chemical sprays, water monitoring), farmers are always reluctant to try these new varieties in their farms. Hence, it would take much coxing on the part of the DAR technical team before any hard-core farmer would be willing to try them out.
Whenever farmer groups are called about fertilizer/seeds/and chemical dispersals, they are oftentimes happy that the largess of the government could drip down to their levels. The free inputs would help them minimize the cost of planting, even if what is promised is only a sack of fertilizer per hectare. What actually happens is that only a sack of urea fertilizer and a liter of pesticide were given even if they till more than a hectare of Agri land.
The carrot that is dangled to farmers groups was one sack of fertilizer for every hectare and a corresponding number of chemicals. However, this does not happen even in times of floods and calamities when government assistance is much needed. Nonetheless, if ever farmers received their apportioned rations, they can only shake their heads in disbelief, and wondered about the discrepancy of what was promised and what was actually given.
Planting Rice in the Philippines
The Bottom Line
The Priority Development and Assistance Fund (PDAF) to Small Scale Farmers should have given the boost to the agricultural sector to take off. Farming, which accounts for 20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, and 40 percent livelihood of the entire nation, remains a vital cog to uplift the Philippine economy.
Farmers are amongst the lowest paid workers in the country and needs basic government infrastructure projects to improve on their sorry plight.Government assistance in the form of farm to market roads, warehouse facilities, agricultural equipment like solar dryers for the rainy months, rat control equipment, and assistance during calamities in the form of seeds, chemicals, and fertilizer is badly needed by this sector.
The PDAF scam has put into the front line the plight of the farmers, that despite their pitiable state, the nefarious characters in government and the private sector still have the gall to siphon off government funding to illegally enrich themselves, at the expense of the poor farmers.
Other Related Work from the Author
- New Government Accounting System of the Philippines: On Budgets and Allocation
- NGAs: New Barangay Acounting System of the Philippines