BY ROGER M. BALANZA
The Davao City Hall is restrained from extending financial aid to indigenous people (lumads) of the Ata-Manobo tribe of Talaingod who evacuated to safer grounds following encounters between military and communist guerillas in the hinterland villages of the Davao del Norte municipality.
No thanks to the P10 billion PDAF scam.
The lumads have found a refuge in Davao City.
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, in his weekly television program on ABS/CBN on Sunday, said the Commission on Audit (COA) has imposed stringent regulations on fund disbursements of social aid to non-residents of Davao City, following the PDAF scam.
The scam involved the anomalous use of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) by senators and congressmen who got kickbacks from ghost projects funded by the congressional fund also known as Pork Barrel.
But Duterte said he may breach the COA rules and would extend aid to the lumads whom he said he could not afford to see dying from hunger.
Charges of plunder had been filed by the Ombudsman against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, for having received the kickbacks, including scam queen Janet Napoles, whose bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) were used as conduit to channel the kickbacks to the legislators as their commission for PDAF-funded ghost projects.
Some 1,500 Ata limads, many of them children, left their villages last April 1 in the hinterlands of Talaingod after what they said were harassments brought by military troops, reports the online news site Davao Today.
The Philippine Army 68th Infantry Battalion, 60th IB and 4th Special Forces have ongoing operations against the communist New Peoples Army (NPA) in mountain municipality at the boundary with Bukidnon.
Relief operations are ongoing for the lumads, and Duterte was asked by co-host Geraldine Tiu in the Gikan Sa Masa Para sa Masa television program on ABS/CBN if the Davao City government would be extending aid to the lumads.
Duterte said under COA rules and regulations in wake of the PDAF scam, local government units may only spend their funds for matters concerning the LGU and are now constrained from spending social funds for non-residents.
The COA is now strict to the last centavo, he said.
Under the new rules, the money of Davao City is only for Dabawenyos and may not be used to subsidize the needs of non-residents, said Duterte.
Duterte however said he would find ways to extend aid to the Talaingod natives for ‘humanitarian reason’ despite the COA regulations.
Duterte said it would be his call to face up to the COA if the social aid to the Ata-Manobos is questioned by the government auditing agency.
I am here to help everybody. I cannot allow the Talaingod lumads to die from hunger, he said.