Bishop bares anomalies in Malampaya funds

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Puerto Princesa Bishop Pedro Arigo (left) with Mika Ortega, a daughter of slain broadcaster and environmentalist Dr. Gerry Ortega, answers questions from the media during a press conference in Manila, 23 October 2012.

MANILA, Oct. 23, 2012— A Catholic bishop wants the government to hold accountable the people behind the alleged misuse of the proceeds from Malampaya Gas Project off Palawan.

Puerto Princesa Bishop Pedro Arigo claimed that certain “powerful” politicians were behind the “anomaly”, and therefore need to be punished for “causing pain to the society.”

“The money just went to corruption practically,” Arigo said in a press conference in Manila on Tuesday.

The bishop called on the Office of the Ombudsman to file appropriate charges over the questionable use of P2.3 billion based on the report of the Commission on Audit (COA).

Arigo also asked the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to conduct an investigation on how the hefty funds released to the provincial government of Palawan are being utilized.

He said former President Gloria Arroyo, then Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes, former Palawan Rep. Abaraham Kahlil Mitra, who is now governor, are some personalities that should be investigated.

He said the alleged irregularity also involved around 10 ranking officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Palawan.

According to him, Arroyo and other Palawan provincial officials that “conspired” to constitute the Interim Sharing Agreement in 2009 must be held accountable.

“Definitely they should be held accountable because the interim sharing agreement between the provincial and national governments was created to use the money of Malampaya for their own,” he said.

Based on the two COA reports, malpractices proliferated in the bidding of projects involving P1.782 billion and P520 million, which were sourced from the Malampaya funds.

He said that while the COA report affirms their long-standing call of irregularities in the use of the funds, they are not yet satisfied with the recommendation of imposing “simple administrative charges”.

“Even those accused in the misuse of P355 million funds of the PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office) were charged with plunder,” he said. “This Malampaya really has basis to be a plunder case.”

Arigo said he believes that the supposed misuse of the Malampaya funds brought huge disappointment to the Palawanenos since it initially held a lot of promise.

Under the agreement, Palawan and the national government will split portions of the money from the Philippines’ largest natural gas development project.

“Even Arroyo herself said at that time that Palawan will soon be the richest province of the Philippines. Others said Palawan will be like Singapore and this is what happened… a big letdown,” said Arigo.

The church official also believed that the anomaly has something to do with the killing of environmentalist and hard-hitting broadcast journalist Gerry Ortega in 2011.

“It was being done secretly. It was only because of the exposes of Dr. Gerry Ortega that it was made known to the public,” he said. (RL/CBCPNews)

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