Criminal and administrative raps were recently filed in the Ombudsman’s office against Governor Jose Alvarez, Vice Governor Dennis Socrates and 15 other officials of the provincial government over alleged irregularities in the use of public funds.
Mansueto D. Fuertes filed graft, technical malversation, grave misconduct, and serious dishonesty complaints on January 31, 2019, against Governor Alvarez, Vice Governor Dennis Socrates, board members Roseller Pineda, Eduardo Modesto Rodriguez, Albert Rama, Winston Arzaga, Leoncio Ola, Sunny Batul, Marivic Roxas, Dennis Sabando, Joel Lumis, Cherry Pie Acosta, Sharon Abiog-Onda, Clarito Demaala IV, David Francis Ponce de Leon, provincial engineer Purisima, and provincial treasurer Elino Mondragon.
Fuertes is a vocal supporter of former mayor Edward Hagedorn and was a candidate for councilor in previous local polls.
Fuertes also appealed for the Ombudsman to investigate the respondents and the complaints and to charge them criminally and administratively for violation of RA 3019, the Revised Penal Code, and RA 6770 or “The Ombudsman Act of 1989.”
He said they should be preventively suspended pending the investigation of his complaints pursuant to the Ombudsman’s Act.
In his complaint-affidavit, Fuertes said all officials of the provincial government are guilty of “violation of Section 3, Paragraphs (a) and (g) of Republic Act (RA) 3019 otherwise known as the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act” and technical malversation punishable under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code.
He said the complaints are based on “the Observations and Recommendations of the Annual Audit Report on the Province of Palawan for the Year Ended December 31, 2017, by the Commission on Audit (COA).”
“Trust funds totaling P1,701,140,399 received from Calendar Years (CY) 2014 to 2017 were invested in time deposits instead of being utilized for implementation of the intended programs and projects in violation of Section 309B of RA 7160 hence, causing the delay in the implementation of projects and depriving the public of the benefits intended to be derived therefrom (sic),” Fuertes’ complaint-affidavit stated.
Fuertes said a review of the accounting records disclosed that the amount invested in several time deposits in Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) was from trust funds totaling P2,071,566,256.71 as of December 31, 2017.
In the complaint-affidavit, he mentioned nine deposit accounts.
He said further verification “revealed that the trust funds were originally deposited in two current accounts”, namely LBP Current Account No. 0462-1055-92 for fund transfers from National Government Agencies (NGAs) for implementation of various infrastructure projects, and LBP Current Account No. 0462-1137-57 for funds received from the different municipalities of Palawan under Local Government Unit (LGU) Alliance Program.
Fuertes claimed the local treasurer confirmed that the funds were placed in time deposit accounts because they were allegedly idle and that the reason for non-implementation of the intended purposes of the trust funds was due to the delay and snail-pace accomplishments of infrastructure projects and prioritization of other provincial government initiatives.
The board members are being sued for their approval of Resolution No. 12211, Series of 2015 as amended by Resolution No. 13209-17 dated July 14, 2017, which granted authority to the provincial treasurer to deposit the amount to banks offering high interests.
He added that the provincial engineer, on the other hand, failed to monitor the monthly reports that caused the slow implementation and delays of the project.
“The practice of using those funds for investment purposes is a violation of Section 309b of RA 7160. Instead of investing in time deposit accounts, the management should exert efforts to improve its efficiency in the implementation of the funded programs and projects so that the utilization of trust funds is maximized in accordance with their intended purposes,” Fuertes said in their complaint-affidavit.
He said loans totaling P2,548,800,000 were acquired too in the absence of proper debt management policies contrary to Section 106 of the Local Treasury Operations Manual.
“As of the year-end, only P1,775,875,447.96 was utilized, but the province had already paid the interest of P444,746,288.15 for the loans obtained,” his complaint said.
Fuertes stated further in the complaint-affidavit that infrastructure projects under the Konkreto at Ayos na Lansangan at Daan sa Pangkalahatang Kaunlaran or “Kalsada Program” totaling P147,884,950.29 were implemented through a combination scheme by administration and contract in violation of Section 3.4 of the guidelines for the implementation of infrastructure projects as stated under Appendix I of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9184 or the “Government Procurement Reform Act.”
This allegedly entailed risk and disadvantages to the government.
He said a retention amount of P3,348,719.77 was also released to the contractor despite the delay and unsatisfactory implementation of the projects.
The Kalsada Program is an initiative of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for Calendar Year 2016 for the rehabilitation and upgrading of provincial roads.
He said based on the COA findings, the funds should have been used in the implementation of intended programs and projects of the province.
However, the respondents, who are mostly board members allowed the placement of the funds through a resolution to time deposits which clearly violates Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code.
Reacting to this, Vice Governor Socrates said they have not received any copy of the complaint yet. However, he reiterated they are not guilty of any irregularity involving public funds.
He believes the complaint is “politically-motivated”.
“Wala pa kaming natatanggap na copy ng reklamo but as far as I know we all have a conscience not to do these accusations. Maaari na dahil pa-eleksyon, pero hindi natin sila masisisi kung may nakita silang mali. But, sa amin wala kaming intensyon para gumawa ng kung ano man na corruption,” he said.
Socrates said his family knows Fuertes, the complainant.
“We live in small town, magkakakilala lahat. I don’t see how the provincial board made a fault in this,” he said.
On Tuesday, the provincial government was supposed to hold a press conference to clarify the issue but it was canceled due to a prior appointment by Alvarez.
Earlier, Fuertes also filed graft and misconduct charges against Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron and several other city officials for violation of Section 3 of R.A. 3019 for alleged irregular and illegal projects amounting to P11 million funded from “ghost savings” and “invalid appropriations” in 2017.
Respondents are the City Accountant, City Treasurer, City Budget Officer, City Engineer, Planning and Development Coordinator, members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) and members of the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the Puerto Princesa city government.
He also wants to hold them liable for the procurement of 18 infrastructure projects worth to P102 million, as well as deficiencies in the implementation of 28 projects amounting to P46.9 million and alleged bloated contract costs amounting to P33 million.