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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo City council welcomed the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to terminate the case filed against them by the contractor of the controversial City Hall Housing Project in Pavia, Iloilo.

Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog said the council was right in its stand not to pay Ace Builders and Enterprise (ABE) P4.3 million despite threats to sue them in court and the Ombudsman.

The amount represents ABE’s Progress Billing No. 4 which construction firm owner Alex Trinidad has been asking from the City Hall for the corruption-marred P130-million project.

Mabilog said the Ombudsman decision issued March 10, 2009 validated the stand of the Council’s committee on infrastructure in 2005 and 2006 not to pay ABE’s billing due to pending administrative cases that stemmed from the project. Mabilog chaired the committee four years ago while still a councilor.

“Our stand at that time was that we will not pay ABE until the Ombudsman has resolved the cases relative to the project. And the Ombudsman vindicated us with this latest decision,” he added.

Councilor Perla Zulueta said the council was steadfast in its decision not to authorize Mayor Jerry Treñas to pay ABE’s fourth billing.

Zulueta said it was City Legal Officer Edgar Gil who recommended paying ABE for its accomplishments.

Gil headed the task force that looked into the legality of paying ABE for the housing project. 

The Ombudsman terminated the case filed by ABE against the council until the main cases are resolved.

Three administrative cases relative to the project are docketed as OMB-V-C-03-0715-K, OMB-V-C-03-0716-K and OMB-V-A-03-661-K. These are still “under review” by the Ombudsman central office, according to Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Pelagio Apostol.

The cases stemmed from the findings of the committee on good government chaired by then councilor now Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. that the housing units were substandard.

Among the city officials charged before the Ombudsman were Mayor Jerry Treñas and his predecessor Mansueto Malabor.

The project was funded through a bond flotation scheme.

In 2002, Rudy Gonzales, a subcontractor of ABE, revealed the use of substandard materials in the project after the latter firm failed to pay him for his contracted work.

That triggered the council investigation, the results of which continue to gather dust in the Ombudsman.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ANTIQUE Governor Salvacion Zaldivar-Perez does it again.

Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Pelagio Apostol claimed that Perez told him via telephone that Task Force O-Plan Red Plate in Iloilo should apologize to Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas Sr.

Apostol said Perez told him the Red Plate team was wrong in apprehending Tupas’ official car in a checkpoint a week ago.

The task force “chased” Tupas’ convoy after his official vehicle, a Chevrolet Suburban, used a plate marked “GOVERNOR” instead of the official red plate issued by the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

The team that conducted the checkpoint is composed of representatives from the Office of the Ombudsman, PNP, LTO, Commission on Audit, Philippine Information Agency and Civil Service Commission.

Apostol said he told the lady governor that they will apologize to Tupas if there were irregularities and lapses in the conduct of the checkpoint.

“But from my own investigation, the task force did not commit any lapses during the checkpoint. It is impossible that irregularities were committed because other government agencies and the media were present during the checkpoint,” Apostol said.

He added the team did not embarrass Tupas during the checkpoint which followed all the procedures.

Earlier, Evangeline Nuñal, Ombudsman associate graft investigation officer I, said proper signages were placed on both lanes of the Diversion Road and Luna, LaPaz.

Members of the task force also wore their uniforms and identification cards during the checkpoint, Nuñal added.

Nuñal said they placed tarpaulin banners in steel railings in Iloilo City to inform the public about their surprise checkpoints and inspections.

Apostol, who hails from Bugasong, Antique, said he will stand by the action of the task force.

“If we apologize even though we did not commit any irregularity, it will send the wrong impression to the public that we are not serious with our work and favoring some officials,” he added.

Apostol said they will not favor any official in the implementation of the red plate policy which checks the use of government vehicles.

Perez could not be reached for her comment.

This is not first time that Gov. Perez dipped her hands in the affairs of Iloilo City and province.

In 2006, she pushed for the renaming of the new Iloilo airport in the towns of Sta. Barbara and Cabatuan.

Early this year, Perez and four other governors in Western Visayas called for the cancellation of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issued to the coal-fired power plant project of Global Business Power Corp. in Iloilo City.

Perez, who once embraced a coal-fired power plant proposed by a Korean firm, also called for the transfer of the P18-billion project outside of Iloilo City.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

NO one is above the law.

This was the reminder of the Office of the Ombudsman to local officials who continue to violate the red plate policy.

Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Pelagio Apostol said they will strictly implement the red plate policy and other rules on the use of government vehicles to all public officials.

Apostol issued the warning following reports that Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas “evaded” the Ombudsman’s Oplan Red plate checkpoint last week.

The Ombudsman in Iloilo conducted a checkpoint Friday last week along Diversion Road in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

A composite team of the Ombudsman, PNP, Civil Service Commission, Land Transportation Office, Commission on Audit and Philippine Information Office manned the checkpoint.

The team apprehended a total of 13 government vehicles, including that of Treñas and Tupas.

The team had to chase the official vehicles of Tupas and Treñas after they failed to stop at the checkpoint area.

Apostol said he is awaiting the report of Ombudsman Western Visayas on the incident.

Evangeline Nuñal, Ombudsman Associate Graft Investigation Officer I, said they are preparing their report to Apostol regarding the apprehension.

“We will be asking the concerned officials to explain in writing why they did not stop considering that the operation was legal,” Nuñal said.

Nuñal said they were offended because two ranking officials of Iloilo failed to recognize the operation.

She said proper signages were placed on both lanes of the Diversion Road while members of the team wore their uniforms and identification cards.

Oplan Red Plate tarpaulins were also hanged in steel railings to let everyone know about the surprise inspections.

Apostol said the two officials will have to explain their actions.

“We don’t want to interfere in their official functions. In fact, we want to help them by guiding them on what to do. We have to implement the law and no one is above the law except if there are exemptions,” Apostol said over RMN-Iloilo.

Apostol said local officials should cooperate with Ombudsman projects to optimize delivery of services to the public. 

Treñas said his party had no reason to evade the checkpoint because his vehicles had proper markings.

Treñas said his driver thought that the Red Plate checkpoint was meant for motorcycles.

“When I heard the sirens of the checkpoint team, I thought the police was escorting me. I later learned that it was the Red Plate team already,” the mayor said.

Treñas said he came from the wake of former Iloilo City mayor Timoteo Consing in Molo where he delivered a homily for the late official.

The mayor said their trip was supported by a duly accomplished trip ticket.

“I hope that will be resolved because we have no reason to evade,” he said.

In an interview with Bombo Radyo, Tupas said he did not evade the checkpoint.

Tupas said the Red Plate team told him about the special plate marked “GOVERNOR” on his Chevrolet Suburban. The governor said the red plate is still attached behind the special plate.

But the team said special plates such as “GOVERNOR”, “MAYOR”, “COUNCILOR”, “PUNONG BARANGAY” are not allowed in government vehicles.

Tupas has ordered the removal of the special plate from his official vehicle. (With reports from PNA)

By Tara Yap

THE service vehicles of the mayor of Iloilo City and governor of Iloilo province were among the 13 government vehicles apprehended by the task force of the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas during its Oplan Red Plate Campaign Friday night.

The task force disclosed that the service vehicles of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. evaded initial checkpoints and the team had to chase the vehicles until they caught up with said vehicles.

The task force explained it pursued the vehicles as they failed to stop at the designated checkpoint.

In a text message to the media, Treñas apologized for the incident saying they did not run away from the red plate checkpoint.

“It is unfortunate that my driver did not recognize it. I apologize if the people who were manning the checkpoint felt that way. I have no reason whatsoever to avoid the checkpoint,” the mayor said.

Tupas remains mum of the issue. Earlier, police took into custody the siren installed in the governor’s Nissan Patrol car following a traffic altercation in Jaro, Iloilo City with the son of a retired military official.

Tupas heaped five administrative charges against Jaro police chief Orly Gabinete for confiscating the siren.

But the PNP Regional Internal Affairs Service (RIAS) pre-charge findings recommended to investigate Gabinete for abuse of authority.

The RIAS junked other charges of grave misconduct, ignorance of the law, gross incompetence and conduct unbecoming of a police officer.

The task force added that all government vehicles bearing red plates must have the name of the government agency or unit or local government with the “For Official Use Only” (FOUO) sign and must use a properly accomplished serially numbered trip ticket.

The only ones that are exempted from having the “FOUO” sign are government vehicles using security plates.

The Office of the Ombudsman is also reminding heads of local government units that are using plates only bearing their position is not allowed.  These includes government issued  vehicles that have plates of “GOVERNOR”, “VICE-GOVERNOR”, “MAYOR”, “VICE MAYOR”, “BRGY. CAPT.”

Exempted from these rules are security plates and special number plates of national officials from the President to cabinet secretaries (numbers 1 to 16).

Officials who are authorized to use these 13 apprehended vehicles will be summoned to explain the use of government vehicles after office hours on a Friday night.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Department of Justice (DoJ) has ordered a second preliminary investigation on the assassination of vice mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo.

 

DoJ Secretary Raul Gonzalez said he tasked a three-man panel to conduct the second investigation.

 

The panel is composed of Senior State Prosecutor Edwin Dayog as chairman and Senior State Prosecutors Nolibien Quiambao and Romeo Galvez.

 

Gonzalez said he ordered the re-investigation after the Rojas family asked for a review of the decision of the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office (IPPO) to junk the murder charges against businessman Vicente Espinosa and Lindsey Buenavista.

 

Espinosa is being tagged as the mastermind of the vice mayor’s slay last May 22, 2008 in the town proper of Ajuy.

 

Gonzalez said the second preliminary investigation will include the affidavit of Dennis Cartagena of Baraulan, San Enrique, Iloilo, one of the alleged gunmen in the case.

 

The DoJ chief said Cartagena’s affidavit was not included in the preliminary investigation conducted by the IPPO because the suspect was arrested after the IPPO absolved Espinosa.

 

Cartagena claimed in his affidavit that Espinosa ordered him and Edgar Cordero to kill vice mayor Rojas.

 

Cordero was shot to death in Butuan City last year, an incident believed to be linked to the Rojas slay case.

 

Meanwhile, the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the complaint of the Rojas family relative to the purported slow progress of the Rojas slay case.

 

Bombo Radyo Iloilo reported that PAGC Commissioner Jaime Jacob wrote Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to investigate why the DoJ has yet to decide on the petition for review filed by the Rojases since last year.

 

Board Member Jett Rojas, a cousin of the slain vice mayor, said he has no knowledge about PAGC’s letter to the Ombudsman.

 

“What I know is that many members of the Rojas family in the US and Europe do not stop doing research and communicate with people in the Philippines who might be of help. The case is stranded in the prosecution level,” BM Rojas said in a text message to The Daily Guardian.

 

The board member said their family is still grieving because they have yet to get justice a year after their cousin was killed.

 

Gonzalez said he feels bad about the complaint of the Rojas family while explaining to them the process that the case must undergo.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Regional Internal Affairs Service (RIAS) of the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) junked the petition of a municipal mayor seeking to suspend Senior Insp. Leroy Rapiz.

 

RIAS-6 said Mayor Restituto Mosqueda of Estancia, Iloilo failed to present evidence and witnesses to support his petition asking for the 90-day preventive suspension of Rapiz.

 

Mosqueda filed the petition in the heels of his alleged armed confrontation with Rapiz outside the barangay hall of San Roque, Estancia last month.

 

The near-shootout occurred when Mosqueda allegedly snarled at Rapiz for operating in Estancia without his knowledge and rumor-mongering.

 

The confrontation happened in the presence of 5th district Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr. who graced the fiesta of Brgy. San Roque.

 

Rapiz, who was relieved as deputy director of the 608th Iloilo Provincial Mobile Group after the incident, heaped criminal and administrative cases on Mosqueda before the Ombudsman.

 

Mosqueda retaliated by filing a case for attempted murder against Rapiz.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Office of the Ombudsman will look into allegations that some members of Task Force Red Plate turn a blind eye on certain violators of the red plate policy.

 

Virginia Palanca-Santiago, deputy Ombudsman for Western Visayas, said they will not tolerate task force members who let go of red plate violators because they are friends or acquaintances.

 

Santiago said they will verify the allegation and file charges against erring task force members.

 

The task force is tasked to apprehend government officials and workers who violate rules on the use of official vehicles. It is composed of personnel from the Philippine National Police, Civil Service Commission, Philippine Information Agency, Commission on Audit and Land Transportation Office.

 

Based on the latest data from the Ombudsman, a total of 110 government vehicles have been apprehended in two weeks.

 

Negros Occidental recorded the most number of apprehensions with 30, Capiz – 19, Aklan – 16, Iloilo – 15, Iloilo City – 13, Guimaras – 10 and Antique – 7.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas will file administrative cases against public officials if proven that they misused government vehicles.

 

Assistant Ombudsman Virginia Palanca-Santiago said they are waiting for the report of the Ombudsman-Iloilo office so they can evaluate the possible violations of government officials and employees who used their vehicles last weekend.

 

Santiago said using government vehicles sans the required trip ticket is a violation of rules on the use of government resources.

 

“We will file administrative charges against them if they don’t have corresponding trip tickets when using government-issued vehicles,” Santiago said.

 

Santiago said they will assign the cases to their investigators if they find probable cause against the government officials.

 

O-Plan Red Plate Task Force in Iloilo said of the 32 apprehended official vehicles, 26 were found to have violated certain rules governing the use of government vehicles.

 

Santiago said more than 100 official vehicles have been apprehended in Western Visayas for violating the red plate rules and other regulations.  

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A MULTI-agency task force has begun the crackdown on misuse and abuse of government vehicles in Iloilo Friday last week.

 

O-Plan Red Plate aims to apprehend and charge government employees who use government cars bearing red plates other than official trips.

 

The Office of the Ombudsman has involved the PNP, Land Transportation Office (LTO), Commission on Audit (COA), Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Public Information Office (PIO) in O-Plan Red Plate.

 

Records from the Ombudsman and the PNP showed that four government vehicles were apprehended for various violations.

 

An ambulance of the municipality of Leganes was apprehended for lack of official trip ticket while an ambulance of the town of San Enrique lacked car plates. Two barangay vehicles were also apprehended for lack of trip tickets.

 

The LTO confiscated the registration papers of the said vehicles for the filing of cases against the drivers and liable officials.

 

In 2007, the Ombudsman based in Iloilo City received 160 reports on alleged abuse of government vehicles with two cases filed. In 2008, it received 47 complaints with 1 case filed.

 

Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Pelagio Apostol said the drop in complaints the past two years is the result of their aggressive campaign against abuse and misuse of official vehicles.

 

Apostol also asked the public to watch out for government vehicles which might be used by public officials during Holy Week.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A BARANGAY captain in Iloilo City answered the forgery, falsification and malversation charges filed against him by one constituent.

 

In his counter affidavit, Punong Barangay Ernie Poral of Ingore, LaPaz, Iloilo City denied the accusations of Lucrecia Guzman that he forged the signature of the latter’s son in the payroll of a declogging project in their village in December 2007.

 

The Office of the Ombudsman last month ordered Poral to answer the accusations filed by Guzman.

 

Poral said he cannot be charged for falsification of public documents because another Ryan Guzman worked in the declogging project as leadman along with Job Beltran and Art Jiz.

 

Poral also claimed that barangay treasurer Arleen Herva disbursed the funds for the workers and made them sign the payroll.

 

The village head also said he cannot be charged with malversation public funds because he is not charged with the custody or control of the barangay’s money.

 

“This is a duty reposed in the treasurer under Section 395 of the Local Government Code,” Poral said.

 

Poral said the documents pertaining to the declogging project were submitted to the Commission on Audit.

 

Poral included the affidavits of Ryan Amit Guzman, Herva and Apolonio Jamandre (Ryan Guzman’s uncle) to back his claims.

 

“The complaint against me by Lucrecia Guzman that her son was included in the payroll voucher is a testament to the recklessness in which these cases were filed. She just filed the instant case without even checking whether there is another Ryan Guzman employed. The falsity of all these accusations is confirmed by Ryan Guzman in his sworn statement,” Poral said.     

 

Atty. Hans Sayno assisted Poral in filing his counter-affidavit dated March 10, 2009.

Suplico asks Ombudsman to probe Tupas, GSO head

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO Vice Governor Rolex continued his counteroffensive against his uncle Governor Niel Tupas Sr. by calling for a lifestyle check on the latter and other provincial officials in the light of the spate of alleged anomalies at the Capitol.

 

In a privilege speech delivered during the first regular session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for 2009, Suplico asked the provincial board to pass two resolutions urging the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct lifestyle checks on Tupas and his family and members of the provincial Bids and Awards Committee, especially General Services Office head Ramie Salcedo.

 

Suplico questioned how the Tupas family won several elections even if they don’t have viable sources of livelihood.

 

Suplico also questioned the mansion owned by Tupas at Brgy. Hechanova, Jaro reportedly worth more than P20 million.

 

“He has built a mansion in Jaro on a salary of around P29,000 per month. Yet, the truth is that he has no visible means of livelihood, one that is commensurate to their lifestyle. Where did he get the money for such a lavish lifestyle?” Suplico said.

 

The vice governor claimed that graft and corruption at the capitol “has increased by leaps and bounds and in greater amounts as the Tupas administration nears its end in 2010.”

 

He cited alleged anomalous transactions at the capitol including the P1.3-million autoclave sterilizer in Passi City, anesthesia machine scandal in Calinog and the purchase of landscaping plants for the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center in Pototan, Iloilo.

 

“These scams cannot be perpetrated without the connivance of certain officers and employees of the Capitol, such as but not limited to the General Services Office and its head, Ramie Salcedo,” he added.

 

To further prove that his uncle cannot support himself outside of politics, Suplico narrated how he and Rep. Ferjenel Biron financially supported Tupas from 1998 to 2001.

 

The vice governor said he gave four vehicles to Tupas and funded the latter’s 1998 gubernatorial campaign in the 5th congressional district.

 

Suplico also recalled giving an Omega wristwatch to his uncle governor at a Japanese restaurant in a Mandaluyong City hotel.

 

“After his defeat (in 1998), I gave him support equal to twice my salary as congressman – P70,000 per month. I practically carried the entire family on my back. I still have the 32 returned checks representing three years, from 1998 to 2001, at P70,000 per check. These checks were payable to Atty. Niel D. Tupas,” he added.

 

During the 2001 elections, Suplico claimed shelling out P40 million of personal funds for the gubernatorial campaign of Tupas.

 

Biron, upon Suplico’s request, contributed P6 million to Tupas’ campaign kitty.

 

“My friends, I never told Gov. Tupas to keep the change. And until now, I am still waiting for the change. Basi bala my sensilyo pa ako!” he said.

 

POLITICAL SURVIVAL

 

Suplico said the recent order of Tupas to use the reenacted 2008 budget this year is only meant for the political survival of his family.

 

The vice governor claimed that seven members of the Tupas family are rumored to run for various positions in the city and province of Iloilo come 2010.

 

“My question is: Where will they get the money? I am afraid that we have to do everything to protect the provincial public funds. I fear that the money in the coffers of the provincial government will be used once again, not for the general welfare of the Ilonggos, but for the political survival of Gov. Tupas and his family in 2010,” Suplico said.

 

Aside from the lifestyle check on Tupas, Salcedo and other Capitol officials, also asked the SP to pass a resolution condemning Executive Order 01-2009 which ordered Capitol departments to operate under the 2008 reenacted budget.

 

Suplico said he is also studying other executive orders of Tupas for possible filing of criminal raps against the latter.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Office of the Ombudsman on Friday dismissed graft cases against Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and four other capitol department heads for lack of merit.

 

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez cleared Tupas, provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada, executive assistant II Levy Buenavista, budget officer Elena Lim and human resources development officer Alma Ravena.

 

The case against the Iloilo officials stemmed from a complaint filed by the People’s Graftwatch of Iloilo Inc in December 2007, accusing them with violation of the and committing “prolonging performance of duties and powers, usurpation of authority, and malversation of public funds.”

 

The People’s Graftwatch primarily questioned why Mejorada, who was appointed as provincial administrator during Tupas’ second term, stayed in his position even after the governor’s second term has already expired.

 

The complainants also claimed that Mejorada continued to receive salaries and benefits after Tupas’s second term ended.

 

Tupas, through Buenavista, purportedly approved the Mejorada’s payroll, the anti-graft group claimed.

 

Mejorada, along with Lim and Ravena, was also charged with falsification so that Mejorada could retain his office.

 

In her 15-page resolution, Gutierrez said Mejorada is “lawfully” holding his position as provincial administrator even if he stayed on after Tupas’ second term expired.

 

Gutierrez cited a Department of Interior and Local Government opinion, stating that “coterminous employees are allowed to stay in office in hold-over capacity despite the expiration of the term of office of the appointing authority for as long as no new appointment… by the present authority is made or the former are advised not to report for work anymore.”

 

The same DILG opinion also said that a municipal order in a hold-departure capacity is entitled to have all compensation and benefits during the hold-over period.

 

Mejorada expressed jubilation last night upon learning that Gutierrez had upheld the validity of his continued exercise of his position and dismissed the case for usurpation of official functions and malversation filed by the People’s Graft Watch of Iloilo.

 

Mejorada he described the case as nothing but a “tool” of Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico.
In a statement, Mejorada described the resolution as a “triumph for truth and justice” and should remove any question about the legality of his continued stay as provincial administrator even beyond the expiry of the second term of Governor Niel Tupas Sr.

“This is a vindication of the position adopted by Governor Tupas that my continued stay as provincial administrator depends solely on his trust and confidence, and the machinations being waged by Vice Governor Suplico to get rid of me are bound to fail,” Mejorada said.

Mejorada said this resolution is also a “wake-up call” for the other Sangguniang Panlalawigan members that Suplico is only taking them down to the path of political hara-kiri, and their support for Suplico will only bring them more embarrassment. (With reports from GMANews.TV)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A POLICE officer slapped a P5-million civil suit against Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. for allegedly humiliating and oppressing him.

SPO1 Rex delos Reyes of Igbaras police station said he wants Gonzalez to pay moral damages for accusing him coddling goons and engaging in illegal activities.

Delos Reyes had also filed an administrative case against Gonzalez before the Ombudsman-Visayas for libel, grave misconduct and oppression.

The cop said he sued Gonzalez for harassing him since last year. Delos Reyes said his agony began when the justice department chief saw him talking to former Iloilo City Prosecutor Efrain Baldago at the new Iloilo airport.

Gonzalez ordered Baldago’s relief as city prosecutor early this year for alleged graft and corruption which the latter denied.

Delos Reyes also blamed Gonzalez for his transfer from the Regional Mobile Group to Igbaras for alleged links to criminal syndicates. He also rapped Gonzalez for having him transferred to Mindanao also for purported criminal activities.

The libel suit was based on Gonzalez’s pronouncement over a radio interview accusing delos Reyes of maintaining armed goons. Gonzalez also said in the same interview that delos Reyes was not reporting to Igbaras but was always seen in Iloilo City.

Gonzalez had also accused delos Reyes of lobbing grenades at the cars of Chief Insp. Musa Amiyong, Iloilo City Police Office intelligence chief, and former punong barangay Ramonito Gratis.

The cop said the numerous citations he received – Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, Medalya ng Paglilingkod sa Visayas and Medalya ng Mabuting Asal – prove that he is no scalawag in uniform.

Delos Reyes is one of the 81 cops who were ordered to undergo retraining at the Regional Mobile Group headquarters in Victorias City, Negros Occidental. But he did not show up at the training center because he is sick.

Atty. Plaridel Nava, delos Reyes’ counsel, said they might also sue Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, for being Gonzalez’s “stooge.”

Nava, who is also Baldago’s lawyer, said they will sue Cuevas for grave abuse of authority if they find enough proof that the region’s top cop allowed himself to carry out Gonzalez’s wishes.

Nava said his client did not proceed to Victorias City because he did not receive any order from the regional command or his station.

The lawyer said delos Reyes does not need to undergo retraining.

Cuevas denied Nava’s accusation saying it was the PNP national command that ordered the retraining, not Gonzalez.

Cuevas said the retraining aims to improve the performance of police officers in Western Visayas.

“If they don’t want to serve as police officers, they can always resign because we have many replacements waiting for vacancy,” Cuevas said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Office of the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal of 11 Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional officials for various offenses.

In separate orders, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando C. Casimiro ordered the dismissal of the following: Wilfredo B. Agustino, Rudy G. Canastillo, Edward G. Canastillo, Cecil C. Caligan, Rolindo M. Perez, Vicente E. Vargas, Dennis P. Geduspan, Mayo R. Pelagio, Bernardo P. Yparosa, Jose M. Javier Jr., and Pio M. Gareza, Jr.

Agustino is the former DPWH-6 regional director while Rudy Canastillo is the former DPWH-6 assistant regional director.

Edward G. Canastillo and Caligan once headed the 4th Iloilo Engineering District based in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo as district engineer and assistant district engineer, respectively.

Agustino, Caligan and the Canastillos were dismissed for grave misconduct for conspiring to give “unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference” to one Rogelio Yap, the contractor for the construction of the Bancal-Leon-Camandag Road in Leon, Iloilo.

Investigation by the Ombudsman revealed that the said officials connived to make it appear that P6,733,329.23 was used for the excavation phase of the project, when what was actually spent was only P38,610.

Since Agustino is already retired, the Ombudsman imposed the accessory penalties to the dismissal order including cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, disqualification for reinstatement or reemployment and bar from taking any civil service examination.

In a separate case, Perez, Vargas, Pelagio, Geduspan, Yparosa, Javier, and Gareza – all of the 4th sub-engineering office of the DPWH office in Bago, Negros Occidental – were dismissed for grave misconduct in connection with irregularities in two projects for the improvement of the Camingawan-Pandan Road in Pontevedra town.

A special audit of the Pontevedra projects showed a discrepancy of P8,128,768.37, representing cost of materials and labor paid but not delivered or accomplished.

In addition, a discrepancy of P2,968,268.33 was also discovered representing cost of materials and labor which were utilized or applied in the project, but which were not included among the paid items.

Casimiro directed DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane to implement the dismissal orders meted on the said officials.

Ombudsman can’t act on airport anomaly issue

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Tara Yap

THE Office of the Ombudsman has not received a copy of the House committee report on the alleged irregularities in the new Iloilo airport project reason why it has yet to investigate the matter.

Sources at the Ombudsman regional office in Iloilo City headed by Atty. Evangeline Nuñal, Associate Graft Investigation Officer I, said the House committee on good government has not furnished their office or the Ombudsman central office a copy of Committee Report No. 1676.

The Ombudsman personnel said Rep. Arthur Defensor (3rd district, Iloilo), then committee on good government chair, is the best person to ask why the committee report was not forwarded to them.

In a phone interview, Rep. Defensor said a copy of the committee report was submitted to Ombudsman-Iloilo so they can investigate the findings.

Defensor said he did not bother to follow up the progress of the investigation to avoid malice.

Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, who also participated in the committee investigation, said a copy of the report was submitted to Ombudsman Visayas based in Cebu.

Suplico is also wondering why the Ombudsman has yet to resolve the case based on the committee findings two years ago.

“I urge the Ombudsman to act on this matter. It’s been two years since the report was submitted for their action,” Suplico said.

Sources familiar with the issue said the Ombudsman-Visayas is set to resolve the new Iloilo airport issue within the next two weeks.

The Daily Guardian tried to get confirmation from deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Pelagio Apostol but to no avail.

QUARRY DUMMIES

TDG discovered this predicament while following up reports that the Ombudsman is set to resolve the airport anomaly issue based on the findings of Committee Report No. 1676.

The committee report, which was approved May 2006 yet, said there is sufficient ground to prosecute Governor Niel Tupas Sr. for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when the latter allowed his in-laws, the Montesclaros family of Bukidnon province, to join the burrow pit and rock-crushing operations of the project.

The report said the Montesclaros family earned more or less P60 million from its forays in the airport project through alleged dummy Melvin Requinto.

The Defensor-led committee then recommended furnishing copies of Committee Report No. 1676 to the Office of the Ombudsman and Department of Justice for further investigation on the issues raised against Tupas.

Tupas had disputed the committee report saying no irregularity was found in the construction of the airport.

Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada said what was cited in the report was the long dead “dummy” issue against Tupas.

The committee on good government also found out that Tupas and his allies in the 8th Sangguniang Panlalawigan intentionally emasculated the provincial quarry ordinance so that the governor will have the sole power to issue quarry permits to favored contractors.

“It may be argued that under Section 43 of Republic Act 7942, the Governor is given sufficient authority to grant a quarry permit as long as the applicant complies with all the requirements prescribed therefore and he may cancel the same as long as the holder is given the opportunity to be heard in investigation conducted for the purpose. In fact, the (quarry) ordinance of 2000 already covered the whole gamut of activities in the extraction of minerals and quarrying. If indeed the ordinance needed refinements, doing away with the necessary checks in the issuance of permits serves no useful purpose and provides the tempting opportunity for abuse,” the committee report said.

The issue of the “weakened quarry ordinance” prompted the committee on good government to propose amendments to the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

“The necessary check should be in place to regulate the issuance of small and large-scale quarrying permits to prevent abuse by the executives of local government units in the exercise of their authority,” the report said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Office of the Ombudsman dismissed three Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) officials based in Iloilo City for various offenses.

Ordered dismissed from service were revenue collection officers Ma. Antonietta Tabobo and Heddan Baltazar and revenue officer Sari Umadhay.

A report posted on the Ombudsman official website detailed the circumstances leading to the dismissal of the three BIR officers.

During an internal audit of her accounts, it was found that Tabobo failed to remit her collection amounting to P564,832.091. Despite a letter of demand from the BIR, Tabobo failed to account for the unremitted funds.

Tabobo went absent without official leave (AWOL) from the BIR five years ago and is believed to be hiding in the United States.

Baltazar, who also went into hiding two years ago, was dismissed for malversation of public funds.

The Ombudsman investigation showed that Baltazar incurred cash accountabilities and unremitted collection amounting to P155,423 and documentary stamp accountabilities amounting to P5,400.

The Ombudsman also said that Baltazar had “98 sets of accountable, unused revenue official receipts with serial numbers 02538603 to 02538700 which he failed to remit.”

Umadhay was ordered dismissed for receiving P258,000 as payment for the estate and capital gains taxes of a certain Mary Lynn Franco.

Umadhay was also sacked for receiving payment for her services in processing Franco’s documents.

The Ombudsman said Umadhay violated Revenue Memorandum Order No. 15-03 which authorizes only the revenue collection officer or deputized municipal treasurer to receive payment of taxes in the absence of an authorized agent bank.

She also violated Republic Act 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees) which prohibits government workers from soliciting and accepting gifts or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A POLICE officer in Iloilo province has filed criminal and administrative raps against Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. before the Office of the Ombudsman.

SPO1 Rex delos Reyes of Igbaras PNP station, through his lawyer Plaridel Nava, accused Gonzalez of libel, grave misconduct and oppression.

Delos Reyes filed his plaint, which was addressed to Tanodbayan Merceditas Gutierrez, with the Ombudsman-Visayas Iloilo office Tuesday.

The cop said he sued Gonzalez for harassing him since last year. Delos Reyes said his agony began when the justice department chief saw him talking to former Iloilo City Prosecutor Efrain Baldago at the new Iloilo airport.

Gonzalez ordered Baldago’s relief as city prosecutor early this year for alleged graft and corruption which the latter denied.

Delos Reyes also blamed Gonzalez for his transfer from the Regional Mobile Group to Igbaras for alleged links to criminal syndicates. He also rapped Gonzalez for having him transferred to Mindanao also for purported criminal activities.

The libel suit was based on Gonzalez’s pronouncement over a radio interview accusing delos Reyes of maintaining armed goons. Gonzalez also said in the same interview that delos Reyes was not reporting to Igbaras but was always seen in Iloilo City.

Gonzalez had also accused delos Reyes of lobbing grenades at the cars of Chief Insp. Musa Amiyong, Iloilo City Police Office intelligence chief, and former punong barangay Ramonito Gratis.

Nava said they are seeking for Gonzalez’s preventive suspension if the Ombudsman finds probable cause to investigate the justice secretary, adding this is “to vindicate the honor and reputation of my client.”

“We want to prove that Secretary Gonzalez is only harassing SPO1 delos Reyes. Even if we are going against the justice secretary, we are confident in our justice system. We believe that justice does not choose even if the respondent is the President’s friend. We hope that the Ombudsman will be fair and file the case in court so that SPO1 delos Reyes will get justice,” Nava said.

Aside from the Ombudsman cases, Nava said they are preparing a petition for injunction and a temporary restraining order against delos Reyes’s reassignment to Mindanao.

Delos Reyes is one of the 11 police officers whom Gonzalez lobbied with the Department of Interior and Local Government to be transferred to the war-torn region.

Latest reports from the PNP national headquarters said the request for transfer is now with the Directorate for Personnel and Record Management in Camp Crame.

Nava said they will challenge the reassignment order in court once his client receives it.

“The order is illegal, tainted, groundless and plain and simple harassment so we will ask the court if delos Reyes’s transfer is valid.”

In an interview over Aksyon Radyo, Gonzalez only scoffed at delos Reyes’s suit.

“Do it fast. I’m shaking (with fear) and I want to answer everything,” Gonzalez taunted.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (DOMOLEO) trashed the administrative charge against the regional chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) relative to the brutal murder of businessman Francisco “Bobby” Tan, his wife and minor daughter.

In a six-page order, the DOMOLEO dismissed the grave abuse of authority suit filed by Conchita Tan against Supt. Renato Gumban.

Conchita had claimed that Gumban conspired with the Zayco family in kidnapping the five surviving minor children of the Tan couple and illegally detaining them in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.

Conchita filed the case sometime in 2006 and was docketed as case number OMB-P-A06-0107-A.

The Ombudsman dismissed the administrative complaint against Gumban because the petition for habeas corpus and issuance of letters of guardianship filed by Conchita Tan (where Gumban and the Zaycos were named respondents) was dismissed by the Regional Trial Court Branch 30 on August 23, 2006.

RTC Branch 30 said that the Tan children, by their testimonies in court, sworn statements and the psychiatric evaluation by a court-appointed psychiatrist, voluntarily went with their Zayco relatives to Kabankalan on January 19, 2006. The children also proved that they were never abducted and brainwashed by any of the respondents.

Based on these facts and “most especially, the findings of the Court which heard the petition for habeas corpus and letters of guardianship would lead to no other conclusion than that of the innocence of the respondent and the regularity of his action as a peace officer,” the Ombudsman said.

It added: “There is, thus, no further need to emphasize the absence of any administrative infraction by the respondent during the supposed kidnapping incident. The accusations against (Gumban) were all belied by the findings of the Court and the supposed victims themselves.”

The Ombudsman likewise lifted the preventive suspension order earlier issued against Gumban while resolving the latter’s motion for reconsideration. It likewise directed PNP chief Director General Avelino Razon to cease and desist from implementing the preventive suspension.

The order was issued by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Dennis L. Garcia and concurred by OIC Director Eulogio S. Cecilio and was approved by Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez.

Atty. Cornelio P. Panes defended Gumban in the administrative case.

July 2020
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