Press Release
September 15, 2008

Loren warns rice scam may go unresolved too

Senator Loren Legarda yesterday called for a thorough investigation of the irregularities that allegedly marred the Department of Agriculture's (DA) purchase of hybrid rice seeds, certified seeds, farm inputs and fertilizers.

Legarda said people behind the "anomalous purchase" of rice seeds and other farm inputs worth P218.7-million and the seeming inefficiency in the implementation of the program should be investigated, and charged in court, if so warranted.

"The government has a lot of explaining to do. This may yet turn out to be another fertilizer fund scam, which remains unresolved to this day," she warned.

Legarda cited a report of the Commission on Audit (COA) which virtually condemned the purchase of hybrid rice seeds and farm inputs as tainted by irregularities.

The purchases were part of the government's rice program intended to alleviate poorest, often neglected sectors of population - the farmers and the fisherfolk.

The COA report involved farmers in different regions who either received very little of the rice seeds and farm inputs or did not receive at all.

The same report also revealed that at least 52 signatures of farmers on the list of recipients of rice seeds and fertilizer were fake, 139 of 593 recipients interviewed from Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas received very little or none at al.

"The testimonies of the complainant should be taken so that proper action can be undertaken, including but not limited to the filing of charges," said Legarda.

"Congress on the other hand must look into the matter so that it can come up with remedial pieces of legislation to prevent this kind of anomalous practices."

The government also figured in another scam in which P728 million in fertilizer funds was diverted allegedly to finance the government's election bid in 2004.

Earlier, Legarda said that corruption should not be passed off as standard operating procedure (SOP), citing the brouhaha over the C-5 Road Extension projects which got double appropriation in the 2008 National Budget.

Legarda undermines the people's trust in government, paints a bad picture of the Philippines in the international community, stunts economic growth, and ultimately worsens poverty.

"A distrusted government is an ineffective government. This is because even well meaning and untainted projects are perceived to be mired in irregularities."

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