Senate should investigate allegations of Osmena on Apeco fund irregularities

THE Philippine Senate is constitutionally, morally and politically bound to investigate allegations of Senator Serge Osmena III that at least P 2-billion in taxpayers’ money were wasted for the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (Apeco).

Groups led by the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the Baler-based Resist Apeco, Defend Aurora Movement, Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and the Panlalawigang Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Aurora (Pamana) appealed to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to probe the alleged irregularities facing the controversial free port project.

“It appears to us that Senate President Enrile and other allies of the Aquino administration do not want to touch issues of corruption and fund misuse facing the equally controversial free port zone project in Aurora.

Is Senator Edgardo Angara—the king of all political turncoats in the country is now an untouchable political kingpin under the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III?” Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France asked.

The Pamalakaya leader said the accusations against Senator Angara and his family who control the board of directors of Apeco are very serious that merit a full blown investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee or the Senate as a whole.

“Instead of granting the P 353 million proposed budget for Apeco nect year, the Senate should have scrapped the budget allocation for the free port zone project and call an in-depth probe of allegations that some 2 billion pesos in taxpayers’ money were wasted by the lords of Apeco,” noted France.

Pamalakaya and other groups who filed a petition before the Supreme Court on October 2011 will troop to high tribunal on Wednesday to ask Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno to expedite the deliberation of their petition demanding the high court to declare laws which created Apeco unconstitutional.

On October 10, 2011, Pamalakaya and other Aurora rural groups filed a petition at the high tribunal putting to question the constitutionality of laws that created Apeco, first is the Aurora Special Economic Zone Act of 2007 and the amending law by virtue of Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Free Port Act of 2010.

Senator Angara denied the accussations of Osmena last week, saying that the total fund spent for Apeco project from 2008 to 2012 were only P 915 million contrary to claims of Osmena that more than P 2 billion of government funds was spent for a non-performing project.

But Pamalakaya said whether it is P 2 billion or P 915 million, the Commission on Audit (COA) should undertake a through financial and performance audit of Apeco.

“Public interest obliges COA to reveal how the lords of Apeco spent the P 915 million taxpayers money for a certified white elephant project in Casiguran. The state audit agency is obliged to undertake an honest-to-goodness auditing of APECO funds,” said Anakpawis vice chairperson Fernando Hicap.

Hicap, also the chairperson of Pamalakaya, said the financial report of Apeco is highly questionable.”P 915 million of hard-earned taxes was spent for a project that is drawn from the money making imagination of the few. He said, COA must take a decisive editing of these funds and recommend the president to veto the P 353 million budget allotted for Apeco next year.

The Apeco board said from 2008 to 2012, the free port zone received P 915,787, 315.00 from the national government, of which P 78 million were spent for personal services, P 145 million for maintenance and other operating expenses and P 556 million for chief operational expenses. The board said P 135 million of APECO funds is still intact.

Pamalakaya and Anakpawis last week pressed Malacanang to support the initiative of administration senator Sergio Osmena III to block the proposed P 353 million budget for next year for the controversial Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (Apeco) project.

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