Piggy bank

Philippine Star
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The government is planning to phase out the Quedan and Rural Credit Guarantee Corp., which was brought to ruin by its former top officials and, if reports are accurate, used as a milking cow by politicians. But before the phase-out, taxpayers will have to fork out another whopping P475 million to pay off the loans of Quedancor to private creditors.

Apart from the additional burden to taxpayers, the gross mismanagement of the government corporation has destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of people who obtained Quedancor loans. Its deactivation will render its employees jobless. Who will pay for this disaster?

Congress, which is investigating the Quedancor mess, is waiting for the extradition from the United States of former agriculture secretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante, whose testimony is also needed in connection with the P728-million fertilizer fund scam. Bolante had fled to the United States as the Senate sought his arrest. The other person who can shed light on the Quedancor mess, former agriculture secretary Luis Lorenzo, also left the country when the fertilizer fund scandal erupted. Lorenzo headed Quedancor when it pumped P3 billion into a swine breeding and fattening program from 2003 to 2007.

Those who availed themselves of the program, which was supposedly risk-free, later complained of losing everything as hog feed and medication failed to arrive on time and their swine started dying. Congress is also investigating reports that shortly before the 2004 presidential race, Quedancor obtained a P5-billion syndicated loan at grossly disadvantageous terms from two banks – another reason for the corporation’s current woes. Quedancor also became a source of ready loans for “needy” politicians, according to reports, aggravating the financial distress of the corporation.

As in the fertilizer scam, government auditors are finding it difficult to determine where the funds for the swine program went. Those responsible for this misuse of public funds must be made to answer for their crime. Unless someone is made to account for this, there will always be public officials who will treat government agencies as their private piggy banks.

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