Ombudsman filing cases, imposing sanctions vs erring gov’t officials, employees in 2015

By , on December 20, 2015

Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City.  (Photo courtesy of DGR Law Offices)
Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City.
(Photo courtesy of DGR Law Offices)

MANILA—The Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) has been filing cases and imposing punitive and disciplinary sanctions against erring government officials and employees in the year that is about to end.

For instance, the Ombudsman filed graft charges on Dec. 8, 2015 before the Sandiganbayan against four former and current officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and eight private individuals in connection with the alleged Php 3.7-million bidding anomaly in 2012.

The Ombudsman charged former BuCor Acting Director Gaudencio Pangilinan and Chief Administrative Officer Ligaya Dador with two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Pangilinan and Administrative Officer Larry Hari also face one count of violation of Section 65 of R.A. 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Also facing charges for violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 are Chief of Staff Venancio Santidad, together with representatives of suppliers Grand Potential Press Inc. and Dotgain Solutions, namely: Alman Madrid, Lawrence Balolong, Julita Balolong, Alex Del Rosario, Alicia Madrid, Nelson Lee Cheng, Gina Rabancos and Paulino Fernandez Jr.

Pangilinan, Dador, Hari and Santidad were also found administratively liable for grave misconduct and were ordered dismissed from the service with perpetual disqualification from reemployment in the government service.

In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible for a fine equivalent to one year’s salary.

Ombudsman investigation found that in 2012, the respondents divided and split into four contracts the project for the construction of the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) building for the purpose of evading the requirement of public bidding.

The Php 1.4-million infrastructure project was awarded through small value procurement to preferred suppliers, Grand Potential and Dotgain, which firms are engaged in the printing business.

The Ombudsman also uncovered that during BuCor’s road map launch, Pangilinan, et al. spent Php 2.3 million to cover expenses for food, giant tarpaulins and tents by resorting to emergency purchase.

In its consolidated resolution, the Ombudsman said that “there was no compelling reason to dispense with competitive bidding nor resort to small value procurement.”

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said that “there is no evidence that BuCor attempted to ensure the most advantageous price for the government.”

Likewise, the Ombudsman has found probable cause to charge former San Juan City Mayor and now Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”, and technical malversation in connection with the anomalous procurement of high-powered firearms in February 2008.

Also facing charges for technical malversation are Vice-Mayor Leonardo Celles and City Councilors Andoni Carballo, Vincent Pacheco, Angelino Mendoza, Dante Santiago, Rolando Bernardo, Grace Pardines, Domingo Sese, Francis Peralta, Edgardo Soriano, Jannah Ejercito-Surla, Francisco Javier Zamora, Ramon Nakpil and Joseph Christopher Torralba.

The Ombudsman also found probable cause for violation of Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019 against the Bids and Awards Committee members, namely: City Administrator Ranulfo Dacalos, Treasurer Rosalinda Marasigan, City Attorney Romualdo Delos Santos, City Budget Officer Lorenza Ching and City Engineer Danilo Mercardo.

Dacalos, Marasigan, Delos Santos, Mercado and Accountant Alicia Barazon were also found guilty of misconduct and were ordered suspended without pay for six months.

Investigation found that in February 2008, Ejercito requested the City Council for authority to purchase high-powered firearms using its calamity fund.

Ejercito explained that the procurement was “an investment for disaster preparedness.”

In response, the councilors passed City Ordinance No. 9 (Series of 2008) authorizing Ejercito to purchase firearms for the San Juan Police Department.

In 2008, the respondents purchased three units of model K2 cal. 5.56mm sub-machine guns and 17 units of Daewoo model K1 cal. 5.56mm sub-machines guns in the total amount of Php2.1 million.

Under Department of Budget and Management-Department of Interior and Local Government (DBM-DILG) Circular No. 2003-1, high-powered firearms are not among the items contemplated for disaster relief and mitigation.

Also, there was no declaration placing San Juan under a state of calamity at that time.

In its 20-page joint resolution, the Ombudsman found a “hasty procurement of specific high-powered firearms of a particular brand sans competitive bidding and without any post-qualification, bolstered by bid documents bearing dates earlier than the publication of the invitation to bid, showing that an unwarranted benefit, advantage and preference” was accorded to the supplier.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said that Ejercito “acted in concert with the members of the city council who authorized him to purchase firearms using the city’s calamity funds paving the way for the application of public funds for a purpose different from the one for which they were originally appropriated by law.”

At the same time, 12 executives from the National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC), Technology Resource Center (TRC), including the now defunct National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR), were dismissed from the service for their participation in the anomalous utilization of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of former Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa amounting to Php 54 million.

In a 58-page ruling, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales imposed the penalty of dismissal for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service against the 12 government officials, namely: Gondelina Amata, Chita Jalandoni, Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Ofelia Ordoñez, Filipina Rodriguez and Sofia Cruz, all from NLDC; TRC’s Dennis Cunanan, Marivic Jover, Consuelo Lilian Espiritu and Belina Concepcion; and Victor Cacal and Romulo Relevo of NABCOR.

Records show from 2007 to 2009, Dangwa received Php54 million as PDAF coursed through non-government organizations (NGOs) connected with Janet Lim Napoles and NLDC, NABCOR and TRC as implementing agencies.

Napoles is the alleged “brains” behind the Php10-billion pork barrel and the Php900-million Malampaya Fund scams.

The PDAF was intended for the acquisition of livelihood and agricultural assistance kits and packages.

In implementing the projects, Amata, processed, facilitated and approved the transactions and payments for the bogus projects.

Based on the Special Audit Report of the Commission on Audit (COA), the agricultural and livelihood assistance kits/packages supposed to be delivered were non-existent or “ghost,”; the NGOs submitted fake or falsified supporting documents to support its liquidation; the Napoles-NGOs lacked the track record and capacity to implement the projects; no public bidding or accreditation process were undertaken; and to date, Php11 million of Dangwa’s PDAF remains unliquidated.

“In spite of these deficiencies, respondent public officers Amata, Cunanan, Cacal, Relevo, Sevidal, Cruz, Jalandoni, Jover, Rodriguez, Ordoñez, Espiritu and Concepcion, with indecent haste, expedited the release of the PDAF disbursements to the NGOs affiliated with or controlled by Napoles. These foregoing acts of respondents constitute Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service,” the Ombudsman ruling said.

The Ombudsman debunked their claim of good faith and presumption of regularity in the performance of their duties and ruled that “the act of certification or release of funds, approval and the affixation of signature in the disbursement vouchers, obligation slip and checks are neither mere formalities nor ministerial functions but involve the exercise of sound discretion that must be diligently performed as these are imbued with public interest.”

The 12 respondents were also meted out the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government service.

Also, the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal from service of three mayors and 27 other local officials from all over Mindanao for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, gross neglect of duty and conduct.

Dismissed from service are Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno, Matanao, Davao del Sur Mayor Vicente Fernandez and Ditsa-an Ramain, Lanao del Sur Mayor Mamintal Adiong. They were also perpetually barred from holding public office.

Three other mayors, four vice-mayors and 30 other local officials in Mindanao were also criminally indicted last month for various charges ranging from violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, malversation, failure to liquidate cash advances and irregularities in the procurement process, among others.

Those who had been criminally indicted include former Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Vicente Emano, Tandag City Mayor Alexander Pimentel and Isulan, Sultan Kudarat Mayor Diosdado Pallasigue.

In a ruling approved on Oct. 6, 2015 by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Moreno was found to have committed grave misconduct for entering into a settlement agreement with Ajinomoto Philippines without prior authorization from the Sangguniang Panlungsod in violation of R.A. No. 7160, or the “Local Government Code”.

The agreement allowed Ajinomoto to pay PHP300,000 instead of its original local business tax deficiency of PHP2.9 million.

The Ombudsman ruled that the approval of the agreement by the court cannot, in any way, legitimize the acts of Moreno.

Dismissed together with Moreno was Glenn Bañez, officer-in-charge of the Treasurer’s Office.

Morales also approved on Oct. 5 the dismissal from service of Fernandez for grave misconduct.

Fernandez, who is facing criminal charges for the murder of a journalist, was found to have been discharging his functions as mayor even while in detention.

These functions include issuing office orders, business permits and appointments, and signing official documents, among others.

He was also criminally indicted for violation of Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) for usurpation of official functions.

Meanwhile, in a ruling approved on Sept. 17, Adiong was found guilty of grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct and oppression for ordering the burning of a truck owned by JERA General Construction.

The company was hired by the Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative, Inc. (LASURECO) to install concrete electric posts and distribution lines in the municipality.

Several witnesses positively identified Adiong as the one who gave the order to burn the truck.

On Sept. 22, the Ombudsman found probable cause to indict Emano for his willful refusal to implement a final and executory decision of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) in violation of the Revised Administrative Code of 1987.

The case arose from a complaint filed by Administrative Assistant III Leonor Esparcia who was transferred and detailed to the city library as watchman, which resulted in the diminution of her rank or status.

Aggrieved, Esparcia challenged her transfer before the CSC which ruled that she should be restored to her original position.

Emano failed to file an appeal and refused to implement the CSC directive.

On the other hand, Pimentel, was charged with violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 for his refusal to pay Mario Cuartero, a member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, the total amount of PHP485,369.24 representing the latter’s salaries, allowances and bonuses for the period July 2010 to June 2011.

Also criminally charged was Pallasigue for violation of Sections 3(e) and 3(f) of R.A. No. 3019 for willfully and deliberately refusing to implement the return to work order, issued by the CSC in favor of Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator Elias Segura, Jr. in March 2014.

He was found to have acted with partiality and bad faith in refusing to implement lawful orders from competent authorities without justifiable cause.

Moreover, 19 officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were ordered dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman over the anomalous procurement of rubber boats worth PHP4.54 million in 2009.

The Ombudsman noted that the police coastal crafts (PCCs) were procured without public bidding and despite the glaring defects that were noted during delivery, the boats were still certified to have passed the acceptance criteria.

Ordered dismissed from the service for grave misconduct were Sr. Supts. Asher Dolina, Ferdinand Yuzon, Cornelio Salinas, Thomas Abellar, Nepomuceno Magno Corpus, Jr. and Rico Payonga, Chief Supts. Reynaldo Rafal and Rizaldo Tungala, Jr., Sr. Supts. Alex Sarmiento and Aleto Jeremy Mirasol, Supt. Michael Amor Filart, PO3 Avensuel Dy, Supts. Job Marasigan and Leodegario Visaya, Chief Insps. Juanito Estrebor and Renelfa Saculles.

Supt. Henry Duque and PNP Accounting Division Chief Antonio Retrato were also dismissed for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty, while Chief Supt. George Piano and Commission on Audit (COA) Auditor for the PNP Jaime Sañares were dismissed for gross neglect of duty.

The officials were also meted out perpetual disqualification from reemployment in the government service, forfeiture of retirement benefits and cancellation of civil service eligibility.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales also ordered the filing of charges for multiple violations of Section 3 of Republic Act No. 3019 or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”, against Chief Supt. Villamor Bumanglag, along with Piano, Dolina, Yuzon, Salinas, Corpus, Jr., Abellar, Payonga, Duque, Retrato, Marasigan, Visaya, Estrebor, Saculles, Dy, Rafal, Tungala, Jr., Sarmiento, Mirasol, Sañares, Filart, and Roselle Ferrer and Pacita Umali of Four Petals Trading (FPT), the supplier of the rubber boats.

Additional charges for falsification of public documents were also ordered against Piano and Duque.

In 2009, the PNP national headquarters issued a resolution for the procurement of watercrafts, including 20 PCCs with a budget of PHP5 million.

Bumanglag, as former director of the Maritime Group, requested for the increase in unit price from PHP250,000 to PHP312,000 resulting into a reduction of the number of units to 16 PCCs.

At the time the rubber boats were delivered and inspected on March 22, 2010, several defects were uncovered such as lack of water temperature gauges, fuel gauges, engine oil pressure gauges and speedometers; engines were not operational; no rudder posts, one damaged outrigger; no ampere gauge; no canvass; no hole back portion for starboard side; no alternator; stacked-up transmission; and no heater plug.

Still, the PCCs were accepted as conforming to end-user’s specification.

Several procurement violations were also established such as: undated and unnumbered procurement documents; supplier was not a technically, legally and financial capable supplier given that its address is located in a residential area with no company website; and FPT is not known in the coastal craft-building industry.

In August 2010, the PNP officials paid FPT a total of PHP4.54 million for the defective rubber boats.

Morales said that “the significant events leading to the procurement of 16 PCCs would not only reveal badges of irregularities but also of haste and preference to buy from FPT as the sole and only choice of supplier for coastal crafts.”