The controversy surrounding Provincial Administrator Mark Tolentino facilitating the acquisition and placement of culverts from the Balili property in Naga City to a Cebu City subdivision where he lives in echoes two similar cases at Cebu City Hall that had different outcomes.
The first involved former Cebu City Councilor Gerry Carillo who was fined one year’s worth of salary and barred from running for public office by the Ombudsman for ordering his administrative aide to work as a cook at a restaurant owned by his girlfriend.
Carillo, who filed a motion for reconsideration at the Ombudsman, had his aide Michael Abellana file his biometrics at City Hall in order to receive his salary despite zero attendance at the office and working full time at the restaurant.
In Tolentino’s case, job order employees were hired to move the culverts to St. Michael’s Village subdivision in Barangay Banilad, Cebu City where he is the homeowners association president.
Tolentino told reporters that the job order employees were paid P18,000 at least for two days work by the association and the work was done after office hours. As far as the culverts were concerned, he said he got clearance from Jone Sepe, the Provincial General Services Office (PGSO) chief, to acquire the culverts from the Balili property.
Sepe’s justification that the province can dispose of materials it deems as unusable for its original purpose doesn’t wash the stink of conflict of interest on Tolentino’s part in acquiring said culverts.
On the surface it would appear that Tolentino used his position as Provincial Administrator to facilitate the acquisition of the culverts free of charge or “a donation” as Sepe described it for his homeowners association.
Tolentino may insist that everything is above board and legal but even if the culverts cannot be used for its original purpose it doesn’t mean the Provincial General Services Office can just “donate” on behalf of the province millions of pesos worth of culverts to a private homeowners association in Cebu City when there are hundreds of villages in the province that need it more than them.
Again, we are reminded of calls by the opposition bloc in the Cebu City Council to investigate reports that a city official benefited from the disposal of scrap iron material obtained from the demolition of the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC).
While nothing came out of it, the fact that even the disposal of scraps of materials from demolished structures is subject to government review should remind Sepe and other officials in the province and local governments that they simply cannot release materials on the say-so of a department official no matter if he is allied with elected officials like Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III, who may or may not have been aware of or is simply dismissive of the incident.