COA wants swifter abolition of graft-ridden PH Forest Corp.

By Ben Rosario

State auditors have ordered the fasttracking of the dissolution and liquidation of another graft-ridden government-owned and –controlled corporation that was ordered abolished six years ago for involvement in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Commission on Audit (MANILA BULLETIN) Commission on Audit (MANILA BULLETIN)

In the 2018 annual Commission on Audit (COA) report for the Philippine Forest Corporation (Philforest), that was released last week, it also ordered the trustee-in-liquidation team (TILT) to comply with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) requirement for the cancellation of the tax identification number and certificate of registration of the corporation.

Also last week, the COA sought the swift and full abolition of the National Agribusiness Corporation and the ZNAC Rubber Estate Corporation which, like Philforest, were among the 11 corrupt and non-performing GOCCs ordered closed down from 2013-2014 by then President Benigno Aquino III.

The audit report showed that former officials of the firm, including NBN-ZTE deal whistleblower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, have been blamed for the unsettled audit disallowances that reached P562.447 million.

COA asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to establish timelines of activities for the quick disposition of financial and corporate affairs of Philforest.

Aside from the pork barrel fraud that resulted in the filing of criminal charges against dozens of then incumbent congressmen and senators, the Philforest management, then headed by Lozada, was implicated in the anomalous lease of public land to his brother and a private firm.

Lozada, NBN-ZTE deal whistleblower, was later sentenced to six to 10 years imprisonment for graft.

In the 2018 Philforest audit report, COA lamented delays in the liquidation and complete abolition of the corporation.

Auditors said that the PFC TILT has yet to complete implementing all the mandated activities for the liquidation and abolition of PFC “despite the lapse of more than five years from the approval of its dissolution.”

Aquino issued the order of abolition on November 26, 2013.

COA said the assigned TILT must now establish the “timelines of activities” for the immediate dissolution so long as this is approved by the DENR secretary and the Government Commission for GOCCs.

Audit examiners also called for the settlement of PFC liabilities, including the payment of separation pay of affected employees.

COA records show that the PFC accounts for P443.29 million in receivables as among the assets of the firm.

The huge amount represents funds due from non-government organizations and people’s organizations that received funding for the implementation of various projects under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) allocations granted members of Congress from 2009 to 2013.

Most of the NGO’s and POs turned out to be non-existent, and the projects later discovered to be bogus, if not bloated for kickbacks of legislators.

COA admitted that the failure of PFC to maintain subsidiary ledgers resulted in the difficulty of identifying the NGOs and POs involved.