Reyes says cash was for programs in provinces

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE –THE two governors who blew the whistle on cash gifts distributed to local officials in Malacañang were not aware that the League of Provinces of the Philippines had set aside P10 million to help neophyte members of the group pursue their respective programs.

Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes, the league’s executive vice president, said that Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio and Bulacan Gov. Joselito Mendoza were absent when the fund was mentioned at the orientation program of the group last Aug. 17 in Cebu City.

Even league president and Misamis Occidental Gov. Leo Ocampos was not around, Reyes added.

The explanation for the cash gifts was not “damage control” as some critics had claimed, he said.

“At the Cebu event, the national executive board, which I presided [over], approved a resolution allotting P10 million to be distributed to newly elected governors to finance their capacity program and provincial alliance building. Governors Panlilio and Mendoza were absent, but it did not mean they are excluded as recipients of the fund,” Reyes told Standard Today.

Reyes said he could understand why Panlilio and Mendoza were surprised to receive the cash.

“The secretariat also failed to inform them, and this was worsened by the absence of a receipt that fateful Oct. 11,” he said.

Asked why he came out with his statement only on Tuesday night, Reyes said he arrived from San Francisco on Oct. 16 in time to celebrate his birthday on Oct 19.

“I came to Manila only last Tuesday,” he said.

Reyes said league members, consisting of 81 provinces, paid annual dues intended to finance its activities—including helping struggling provinces and neophyte governors.

He said the league did not receive public funds or money from the Office of President.

Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone, the league’s executive secretary, said government anti-graft bodies like the Office of the Ombudsman and the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, including the lower House and the Senate, had no right to investigate the group’s financial standings.

“LPP is a private organization,” Evardone said.

Opposition Senator Panfilo Lacson expressed skepticism.

“I don’t believe the money came from them,” he said, noting that at least two governors and one congressman who received cash were not league members.

“It’s unthinkable for the President of the republic not to know what’s happening inside the Palace, especially if it involves giving out P500,000 to governors and congressmen,” he said.

Also yesterday, La Union Rep. Thomas Dumpit Jr. admitted receiving a bag from a member of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office but would not say if it contained cash.