COA affirms ex-congresswoman's P10.79-M pork barrel scam liability

Published June 13, 2021, 6:31 PM

by Ben Rosario

Nearly a decade after the Commission on Audit exposed the pork barrel scam that reportedly defrauded government of more than P10 billion, the audit agency finally affirmed the liability of a former partylist solon in the release of over P10.79 million to a bogus foundation linked to alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

In a March 1 decision that was posted recently, the COA-Commission Proper denied a petition for review filed by former Kalinga Partylist Rep. Abigael Faye C. Ferriol-Pascual who contested the Notice of Disallowance (ND) of P10,799,500 representing her share of the Priority Development Assistance Fund.

Ferriol-Pascual was among members of the Senate and the House of Representatives linked by COA to the questionable transfer of PDAF or pork barrel funds to various fake non-government organizations (NGOs) and foundations allegedly used by Napoles, currently detained and facing numerous graft and other criminal charges.

The former solon was held liable for the release of her pork barrel allocation to the Gabay at Pag-asa ng Masa Foundation Inc. (GPMFI) through the National Agriculture and Fisheries Council (NAFC).

The COA-CP ruled on the Petition for Review filed by Ferriol-Pascual on April 4, 2019 that appealed the final ND issued in 2018. The ND rejected the disbursement made from the PDAF allocation of Ferriol-Pascual.

Composed of Chairman Michael Aguinaldo and Commissioner Roland Pondoc, the COA-CP declared the petition in default for being filed beyond the “reglementary period of six months”.

After pointing out that the petitioner failed to offer “any plausible explanation for the delay” in the filing of the petition, the COA panel nonetheless issued a ruling on the merits of the appeal.

“Even if this Commission would set aside technicalities, the petition will still be denied for lack of merit,” the COA-CP declared.

In her petition, Ferriol-Pascual argued that her role in identifying livelihood projects was merely recommendatory and that she had no role in the transfer by NAFC of her pork barrel funds to GPMFI.

Ferriol-Pascual also aired a defense of “good faith” and the presumption of regularity in the performance of her duties and functions.

“This Commission finds the arguments of the petitioner bereft of merit,” the COA-CP stated.

Once named the youngest lawmaker in Congress, Ferriol-Pascual was found guilty of making representations with NAFC, which then was not an implementing agency of PDAF projects, to transfer the fund to GPMFI “for project implementation.” In fact in a Memorandum of Agreement executed on March 20, 2012, she reportedly “identified and designated GPMFI as the fund conduit in the implementation of the project”, the COA-CP said.

According to the top audit panel the funds “would not have been transferred toi NAFC and then to GPMFI without her facilitation.” “Petitioner was and still is a member of Congress, undeniably a high ranking official. Like other legislators, she was able to persuade or influence the DA (Department of Agriculture) to transfer the fund to NAFC, and for NAFC to transfer the fund to GPMFI,” the top audit officials said.

Further, the COA-CP noted that the implementation of the PDAF project of Ferriol-Pacual was awarded to GPMFI “without undergoing competitive bidding.” It also dismissed the argument of good faith raised by the former congresswoman, stressing that this could be rebutted “by evidence to the contrary.”