22 Bohol officials suspended, indicted for graft, corruption
There seems to be no let up in the campaign of the Office of the Ombudsman against alleged erring government officials in the region.
This time, officials from Bohol province are the ones under fire.
At least 22 elective and appointive officials have been suspended administratively and/or criminally indicted for graft for two separate procurement transactions.
Former Gov. Erico Aumentado would also have been charged, if not for his death on December 25, 2012, which extinguished any criminal liability he might have had.
Vice Governor Dionesio Balite, who is a former provincial board member, was meted a nine-month suspension and faces graft charges over an alleged irregular transaction involving the procurement of a backhoe in 2006.
A complaint filed last November 6, 2014 said Civic Merchandising Inc. (CMI) submitted a bid in 2006, for the supply and delivery of one backhoe with breaker and was awarded the contract by the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) even though CMI indicated payment terms through Letters of Credit (LC), which is not allowed by the Procurement Law.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bohol at that time issued a resolution that authorized the late Gov. Aumentado to open an LC with the Philippine National Bank-Cebu Branch to pay for the heavy equipment.
The Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office (FIO), as the complainant, charged several 2006 board members for authorizing Aumentado to open an LC with PNB, and members of the 2006 BAC for accepting the bid of CMI despite the fact that its payment term and delivery schedule allegedly violated several laws including the Government Procurement Reform Act and the Local Government Code.
Suspended for nine months along with Balite, are 2006 board members Conception Lim, Jose Veloso, Feliz Uy, Godofreda Tirol, and Brigido Imboy; and 2006 BAC members Laura Saramosing-Boloyos, Felix Mejorada and Abraham Clarin.
For the same procurement transaction, Balite, Lim, Veloso, Uy, Tirol, Imboy, as well as other 2006 Sangguniang Panlalawigan members Ester Galbreath, Ma. Fe Camacho-Lejos, Frances Auza, Handel Lagunay, Edwin Vallejos and Amalia Tirol and BAC members Saramosing-Boloyos, Mejorada, Clarin, and Greta Mende were also indicted for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In their counter-affidavit, Balite and his co-respondents said the resolution authorizing Aumentado to open an LC was upon the insistence of the then governor.
Considering that the board members were discharging their official functions when they passed the resolution and for the BAC members who were acting in their official capacity when they accepted CMI’s bid, the anti-graft office held that the officers involved were administratively liable for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
Letters of credit
The Ombudsman explained that LC, as a mode of payment, was still not allowed in any procurement when CMI submitted to the BAC its bid on April 4, 2006.
The anti-graft office pointed out that despite the prohibition under the law, CMI’s bid was still accepted by BAC, with the provincial board eventually passing a resolution authorizing Aumentado to open the LC with PNB for the payment of its procurement.
“Respondent 2006 BAC and SP Members’ act of disregarding the prohibition on the use of letters of credit in favor of a Philippine entity or its foreign supplier pursuant to the provision of IRR-A of RA No. 9184 as implemented by Memorandum Order No. 119 of September 18, 2003 issued by the Office of the President tarnished the efficiency, integrity, and credibility of their offices,” the Ombudsman held. “Further, such act diminished or tends to diminish the public’s faith in respondents’ offices.”
Another heavy equipment procurement transacted by the provincial government of Bohol back in 2009 also landed BAC members Cesar Tomas Lopez, Alfonso Damalerio II, as well as Imboy an administrative penalty of nine-month suspension.
Together with Imboy, Lopez, and Damalerio, then vice governor Julius Caesar Herrera and 2009 PB Members Amalia Tirol, Galbreath, Camacho-Lejos, Josil Trabajo, Aster Apalisok-Piollo, and Jane Censoria Cajes-Yap, were also indicted for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The complainant claimed that the 2009 BAC failed to observe the Government Procurement Act when they accepted the bid of CMI, RDAK, and JVF for the supply of various heavy equipment during the year despite the fact that their payment terms and delivery schedules were not in accord with the law.
“Said suppliers were awarded the contract and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan even passed a resolution authorizing Governor Aumentado to open LCs despite the fact that the heavy equipment were not yet delivered and even authorizing LBP (Land Bank of the Philippines) to deduct LC opening and negotiation charges from the provincial fund,” the complainant claimed. “Further, payments were made to CMI, RDAK, JVF even prior to the delivery of the purchased equipment in violation of Section 338 of RA No. 7160 and Section 88 of PD No. 1445.”
The anti-graft office did not find substantial evidence to hold the 2009 BAC members administratively liable for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in accepting the bid offers of CMI, RDAK, and JVF but held PB members Lopez, Damalerio, and Imboy liable for authorizing LBP, through a resolution, to debit all charges incidental to the opening and negotiation of the LC against the standing account of the province as they gave the authorization despite express prohibition under RA 9184.
Former vice governor Herrera and the other 2009 PB members were also indicted for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act over the same transaction, including Amalia Tirol, Galbreath, Camacho-Lejos, Trabajo, Apalisok-Piollo, and Cajes-Yap.
The anti-graft office held that the 2009 PB Members’ collective act of passing a resolution authorizing Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to debit all charges incidental to the opening and negotiation of the LC against the standing account of the province “appears to be made in gross inexcusable negligence amounting to bad faith”.
“It is the responsibility of respondents before passing the resolution to ascertain if doing so does not contravene any provision of law, more so that the government had to bear the incidental charges of the cost in opening of the LC,” the anti-graft office held. “Yet, said respondents in utter disregard of their duties, readily issued the resolution which evidently caused the Province of Bohol undue injury in the total amount of P274,024.32.”
The governor of Bohol was directed to implement the suspension order. In the event that the erring officials were no longer in government service, they are made to pay a fine equivalent to six months’ salary.
Department of Interior and Local Government Regional Director Rene Burdeos said he has not yet read or received a copy of the decision.
Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of Cebudailynews. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.