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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Audit (CoA) has reminded the Iloilo provincial government and more than 11,000 volunteer health workers (VHW) to refund the P23.2-million financial assistance given out December 2008.

In its Notice of Disallowance No. 09-011-100 (08) dated November 20, 2009, the audit agency said the financial assistance to VHWs has no legal basis as the provincial government was operating under a reenacted budget.

The office of Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. received a copy of the notice of disallowance November 23.

The provincial government reenacted the 2007 budget after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) ruled the 2008 annual budget as entirely inoperative.

The grants were given to the volunteer health workers December 2008 after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved Supplemental Budget No. 1 per Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-08.

The DBM had also declared the grant to VHWs as inoperative since the provincial government was operating on a reenacted budget. Since there was no annual budget, the SP cannot pass a supplemental budget.

The CoA 2008 Annual Audit Report on the Iloilo provincial government also pointed out the same flaw in the release of the VHWs’ allowances.

The CoA provincial office also issued an audit observation memorandum regarding the financial assistance.

CoA also held Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr., Vice Gov. Rolex T. Suplico, the Iloilo provincial board and other Capitol officials liable for releasing the allowances to the VHWs sans legal basis.

A total of 11,659 barangay service point officers, barangay nutrition scholars and barangay health workers received P2,000 each from the Capitol for their allowances.

Gov. Tupas has refused to refund the P23.2 million fund claiming it was released to VHWs in good faith.

Meanwhile, the P23.8-million financial assistance to VHWs for 2009 is still pending with the committee on appropriations of the provincial board.

Tupas had accused his nephew, Vice Gov. Suplico of deliberately delaying the approval of the P180-million Supplemental Budget No. 1 where the assistance is included.

But Suplico debunked his uncle’s claim as he is neither the chairman nor a member of the appropriations committee anymore.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILOILO Vice Gov. Rolex T. Suplico slammed his uncle Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. for accusing the former of delaying the release of the allowance of volunteer health workers (VHWs) in the province.

Suplico said Tupas made the accusation when he addressed the Barangay Service Point Officers (BSPO) Day at the Capitol grounds Thursday.

The allowances for VHWs are embodied in the P180-million Supplemental Budget No. 1 requested by Gov. Tupas in October.

The supplemental budget includes the honorarium of day care workers amounting to P3.314 million, BSPOs P4.25 million, barangay health workers P14.756 million; and barangay nutrition scholars P1.692 million.

The supplemental budget is still pending with the committee on appropriations chaired Board Member JR Salcedo.

Suplico said he gave up the appropriations committee because of his heavy workload and political plans.

“I can join the discussion but I cannot vote on any measure because I am not with the committee anymore. I can only vote during the plenary discussion of any appropriations when there is a tie,” he said.  

Suplico said the governor is barking up the wrong tree.

“That’s a lie. I am not a member of the committee on appropriations anymore. And we have been releasing these particular allowances in the last two years,” he added.

Suplico said Tupas is the one guilty of violating the ordinance pertaining to the release of the VHWs’ allowances.

“Gov. Tupas violated the ordinances which directed him to send the allowances to the municipal treasurers who will release the money to VHWs in their respective towns. This was meant to spare the workers of added expenses and effort to go to Iloilo City and claim their allowances from the Capitol,” the vice governor said.

Suplico said Tupas has politicized the release of the allowances by requiring the workers to attend political rallies at the Capitol and Barotac Viejo where his family and allies spoke.

He said the volunteer workers ended up spending part of their allowances on their fares and food in going to the city.

“I call upon to Gov. Tupas to be truthful. It’s bad to lie. The allowances are not your family’s personal funds, but public funds. Don’t fry the volunteer workers in their own lard,” Suplico said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WHAT’S wrong with the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC)?

Problems continue to hound the IRC particularly the entry of illegal drugs, deadly weapons and other contrabands.

Reports from the Iloilo capitol and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) point to an inmate and a jail guard as the alleged drug traffickers in the IRC.

PDEA sources said Provincial Guard 2 Ritchelleu Tupas serves as runner of the inmate who is running the drug trade inside the jail facility.

PDEA operatives also spotted Tupas, who is a distant relative of Iloilo Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr., in the vicinity of Brgy. Bakhaw, Mandurriao, which is tagged as the illegal drug haven of Iloilo City.

Gov. Tupas yesterday dismissed PG2 Tupas from service not because of his involvement in illegal drugs but because of his prolonged absence sans official leave.

The illegal drug trade in the IRC hugged the headlines anew after two inmates – Jobert Balboa and Cris Talamor – fought over a transaction.

Balboa said he wanted to collect money from Talamor as payment for the shabu which the latter bought.

Balboa even surrendered a sachet of suspected shabu to the IRC guards.

Days after the illegal drugs issue surfaced, more than 800 IRC inmates mounted a noise barrage to complain poor management of the jail.

Chief among the inmates’ plaint, and a perennial concern at that, is the poor quality of food served to inmates despite the multimillion peso budget allocated to the jail facility.

This year, the provincial government set aside P14.6 million for the IRC inmates’ food alone.

The meal plan of the IRC caterer, SLP Canteen, was very mouth-watering.

For breakfast, the menu ranges from rice with egg, rice with dried fish, rice with hotdog, rice with sautéed eggplant, rice with sardines with miswa noodle, rice with corned beef with diced potatoes and yes, rice with ham.

Monggo with pork, laswa with hibe, red beans, pinabket, ground pork with kalobay and pechay, chicken head and papaya and pancit was supposed to be served for lunch.

The dinner course consists of bam-e, dinuguan, chicken, fish paksiw, pork paksiw, pork menudo and fried fish.

SLP Canteen is also the concessionaire of the provincial capitol cafeteria. The caterer provides the IRC food through bidding every three months.

But the discovery of beriberi inside the jail middle of this year showed that the inmates were eating something else.

The inmates complained that they eat tasteless soups, badly-cooked rice and rotting fish.

IRC Warden Soteo Gardose had asked for additional budget for the inmates’ food allowance which is only P40 a day.

Gardose requested the Sanggunian Panlalawigan to increase the food allowance by P10, making it P50 daily, to provide sufficient and nutritious food to the inmates.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

BAD food and “unfair treatment” forced inmates of the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC) in Pototan, Iloilo to mount a noise barrage Wednesday morning.

The more than 1,000 IRC inmates vented their ire on Warden Soteo Gardose and jail guard Mayflor Cepeda.

The inmates complained that the IRC management scrapped the privilege to be with their family when they celebrate their fiesta on November 22, Christ the King Day.

They also riled at the constant changes on the schedules of conjugal visits.

The inmates also called as unfair the penalties imposed on them when they fail to master the dance steps for their upcoming presentation during their fiesta.

Those who fail to follow the dance steps are put in isolation cells or bartolina. The IRC inmates are trying to replicate the dancing detainees of Cebu by practicing their dance routine.

They also accused Cepeda of pocketing donations solicited using projects for the inmates.

As regards their food, the inmates said they are served tasteless soups and fish. There are also days when they subsist on knighting but pancit only.

Gardose denied the inmates’ claims saying he already allowed their families to join them on the eve and during the fiesta.

Daily conjugal visits are still in effect at the IRC but Gardose said the relatives of inmates must follow certain rules, particularly on the entry of items for the detainees.

As regards the penalty for inmates who don’t know how to dance, Gardose said they observe due process before penalizing them.

“Cepeda once recommended three-day isolation of two inmates for failure to master the dance steps but after the investigation, I lowered the penalty to one day only. These penalties are not absolute,” Gardose said.

Cepeda, who is in charged of the IRC rehabilitation program, said over Bombo Radyo that she only penalized inmates who turn rowdy during practice.

She also denied allegations of graft and corruption leveled by inmates against her.

Gardose said he will investigate the accusations against Cepeda.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

TWO Iloilo provincial officials traded barbs over reassignments and purported transfer of the media lounge to the old capitol building.

Marilou Sumbing, former Public Information Office (PIO) chief, said she has been transferred to the Provincial Tourism Office headed by Atty. Jonar Pueblo. Her transfer is contained in Reassignment Order No. 005.

While Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. issued the transfer order, Sumbing said Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada had a hand in her reassignment.

Sumbing claimed that four PIO personnel were also reassigned to the said office.

She said her assignment will result in the transfer of the media lounge from the second floor of the new capitol building to the third floor of the old building.

“We cannot even promise you if there will be a media lounge in the old capitol building because of space limitations,” Sumbing added.

Sumbing also claimed that the Hospital Operations Management Service will take over the PIO space in the new capitol.

Mejorada said Sumbing was lying regarding the transfer of the media lounge.

“The media lounge will stay in the new capitol building. We will put a round table in the PIO where we can have coffee and talk about issues in the provincial government,” Mejorada said in an interview with Aksyon Radyo.

Mejorada said he will serve as PIO head after Sumbing’s reassignment.

Sumbing and Mejorada had clashed before when the latter allegedly tried to use the P200,000 capital outlay allocated to the PIO.

Sumbing told Tupas about Mejorada’s move, prompting the latter to retain the money with the PIO.

Mejorada said Sumbing was transferred to the tourism office because of her sub par performance as PIO chief.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Commission on Audit (COA) has disallowed the transaction on the P1.1-million autoclave sterilizer purchased by the Iloilo provincial government for the Passi City district hospital.  

 

In a notice of disallowance issued November 11, 2008, state auditor 4 Haydee P. Pasuelo said they found discrepancies in the deal.

 

“Ocular inspection conducted by the COA-Technical Services Office on August 21, 2008 disclosed that the unit is not in accordance with the duly approved Purchase Order, has no nameplate indicating the name of the manufacturer, origin of the unit, brand name/model and power consumption, and brochure submitted does not indicate the product patent number. It was also found out to be defective; thus the actual test was not performed at the time of the inspection,” the notice said.

 

Pacific Trade House won the contract for the autoclave sterilizer which conked out when personnel of the Don Valerio Palmares Sr. Memorial District Hospital operated the machine.

 

The audit body also found “existence of fraud” in the procurement process based on the disbursement voucher and other supporting papers.

 

“The bidding participated in by Pacific Trade House and CDC Pharmacy showed that there was collusion between the two bidders. The disbursement voucher revealed that the person who received the check for payment in favor of Pacific Trade House was the authorized representative of CDC Pharmacy in the name of Ma. Cherry D. Alaban. It was also noted that the delivery receipt, signed by the Nurse-in-Charge supposedly issued by Pacific Trade House, bears the Taxpayer’s Identification Number (TIN) of a Dione Trading. Further investigation revealed that this Dione Trading (which delivered the autoclave sterilizer) and CDC Pharmacy are owned by only one person,” COA said.

 

COA said the discrepancies violated procurement and accounting rules.

 

Who are liable for the controversial transaction?

 

COA said the persons legally responsible for the deal are general services office chief and bids and awards committee (BAC) chair Ramie Salcedo, budget officer and BAC vice chair Elena Lim, provincial engineer Gracianito Lucero, former provincial treasurer Melba Sullivan, provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada, and executive assistant Levy Buenavista.       

 

Also held liable were Governor Niel Tupas Sr. for approving the transaction and Mercedes Sibug as supplier.

 

In his privilege speech delivered during the provincial board’s regular session Tuesday, Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said the persons tagged by COA to the questioned deal are “the ‘usual suspects’ in zarzuelas with these particular plots involving scams and scandals.”

 

“These ‘usual suspects’ may have already attained the status of ‘stars’ or even ‘superstars’ in their own right,” Suplico added.

 

Suplico urged the Sangguniang Panlalawigan “to condemn the sterilizer scam in the strongest possible terms; to refer the matter to the appropriate committee for investigation; and to do any act necessary to stop graft and corruption in the Iloilo provincial government.”       

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Civil Service Commission (CSC) altered the decision of the Iloilo provincial government to sack a jail guard for the shooting to death of a man in Badiangan, Iloilo six years ago.

 

In Resolution No. 081982 promulgated November 4, 2008, the CSC modified the April 12, 2005 decision signed by Governor Niel Tupas Sr. finding Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC) Provincial Guard 2 Eliazar Elisan guilty of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service and dismissing him from government service.

 

The commission instead indicted Elisan for simple neglect of duty and suspended him for three months without pay.

 

The resolution was signed by CSC chair Ricardo Saludo and commissioners Mary Ann Fernandez-Mendoza and Cesar Buenaflor.

 

Elisan, who was represented by lawyer Dennis Ventilacion, was charged with the administrative case before the Office of the Governor for the shooting to death of Alex Collado during a benefit dance at Brgy. Cabanga-an, Badiangan last December 31, 2002.

 

The shooting incident happened around 11pm when a commotion broke out between a certain Allan Ahumada and Angot Adorador inside the basketball court where the affair was held.

 

Elisan at that time was off duty and stayed at the sari-sari store of Collado some 15-20 meters from the scene of the commotion.

 

Punong Barangay Vivencio Villa then asked Elisan to pacify the fracas which the latter did by going near the scene and fired his caliber .45 service pistol thrice.

 

Collado was hit resulting to his death. Alejandro Adorador was also wounded in the shooting.

 

After Collado’s wife filed a formal complaint, Tupas ordered a fact-finding investigation on the incident the result of which became the basis for the filing of administrative charges against Elisan January 23, 2003.

 

On the same date, Tupas also placed Elisan under 60-day preventive suspension.

 

The hearings on the case stretched from January 2003 to January 7, 2005. On April 12, 2005, Elisan was found guilty and ordered dismissed from service.

 

The IRC guard filed a motion for reconsideration June 6, 2005 but it was denied. He then filed his appeal with the CSC June 25, 2005.

 

The commission said Elisan’s act of firing his gun during the commotion “does not constitute grave misconduct as the firearm of Elisan was aimed directly or directed not to a particular person, being warning shots only, but to the air.”

 

“It was not proven that Elisan fired directly at Collado. Neither was it proven that the bullet from his firearm caused the wounding of Adorador. Thus, the negligent act that can be attributed to Elisan was the indiscriminate firing of his gun, which although not shown to be the proximate cause of the fatal incidents, was nonetheless uncalled for and dangerous considering the many people present during the incident and possibility that the bullets fired may hit somebody once the same fall back to the ground,” the CSC resolution said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE “Black Friday” affair of Iloilo capitol workers will be prolonged as Governor Niel Tupas had asked the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to declare as inoperative the appropriations ordinance authorizing the 10 percent salary increase for the provincial employees.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved Appropriations Ordinance 2008-02 last September 9 to implement the DBM’s Local Budget Circular 88 mandating and setting the guidelines for the 10 percent pay hike.

Tupas received the measure September 10 for his signature but he refused to take action.

The governor said he let AO 2008-02 lapse into an ordinance after the 15-day reglamentary period to hasten its review by the DBM.

The 10 percent pay increase was supposed to be released Thursday last week but Tupas refused to budge saying he will wait for the DBM ruling.

Capitol workers vowed to continue wearing black clothes every Friday if the provincial government does not release their increase.

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said Tupas should pity the workers and implement the increase the soonest time possible.

Suplico said the Sanggunian has done its work by passing an ordinance mandating the increase.

But in his letter to DBM regional director Nilo Buot, Tupas said AO 2008-02 suffers from legal infirmity because the SP “failed to appropriate the statutory and mandatory 20 percent of the underestimated internal revenue allotment (IRA) share of the province for developmental projects.”

The governor also scored the AO for failure to set aside money for the 5 percent calamity fund.

The Iloilo provincial government is operating under the 2007 reenacted budget after the DBM nixed as inoperative the 2008 budget approved by the opposition-dominated provincial board.

“The DBM has consistently ruled that appropriations ordinances that do not include statutory obligations are not valid, hence, inoperative. This ordinance is thereby illegal, invalid and inoperative if we go by previous rulings of your agency. But we will leave it to your agency to pass judgment on this issue,” Tupas said.

Tupas said the AO 2008-02 is illegal because it skipped the budget process in Republic Act 7160 (Local Government Code) by disregarding his request for supplemental for the salary hike.

“…It was the committee on appropriations that proposed an appropriation measure to implement a presidential directive on a 10-percent salary increase for LGU officials and employees, and not on the basis of the request for a supplemental budget that I had submitted,” he said.

The governor said the provincial board’s move contravenes Section 318 of RA 7160 that vests upon the local chief executive the duty to prepare the executive budget and supplemental budgets to be submitted to SP approval.

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