Treasurer sacked-A A +A
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
THE Office of the Ombudsman has decided to permanently disqualify a former municipal treasurer from holding public office, over the misuse of P20 million in livelihood funds.
Celestino “Tining” Martinez III, who was then municipal mayor of Bogo at the time of the transaction, said his camp will ask the anti-graft office to reconsider its decision.
He declined to issue further statements until they receive a copy of the decision that found former municipal treasurer Rhett E. Minguez guilty of grave misconduct and dismissed him from the service.
Minguez is reportedly running for Bogo City councilor under the slate of incumbent Mayor Celestino “Junie” Martinez Jr., former mayor Tining Martinez’s father. Tining will be running for Congress under the Liberal Party against incumbent Rep. Benhur Salimbangon of One Cebu.
The ombudsman also found municipal accountant Crescencio P. Verdida and municipal budget officer Mary Lou B. Ursal guilty of simple misconduct and ordered them suspended for six months without pay. It could not be confirmed yesterday if both are still working with the City of Bogo.
Tining Martinez and then vice mayor Vicente P. Rodriguez had been included in the original complaint, but were eventually cleared because of the Aguinaldo doctrine.
Under that doctrine, elective officials who win a fresh term are considered cleared from any administrative liability for transactions in their previous term.
The ombudsman handed down its decision on the Bogo case last Feb. 13, 2012.
The decision penned by Graft Investigation Officer Mona Chica Cabanes-Gillamac stemmed from the use of P20 million that was released to the Department of Agriculture (DA) on March 13, 2007.
This was supposed to be used in the Ginintuang Agrikulturang Makamasa Program to address issues like food security, poverty alleviation and the enhancement of farmers’ incomes.
The DA, as requested by then congresswoman Clavel Asas-Martinez (the then-mayor’s mother), transferred the P20 million to the then municipality of Bogo.
Bogo, however, entered into an agreement with the Bogo Municipal Employees Multi-Purpose Cooperative (BMEMPC), which then released the funds to 127 of its members.
Except for nine, these were released as salary loans “without any declared livelihood project by the borrower on which the amount borrowed would be utilized.”
The respondents, in their counter-affidavit, stated that the funds were not misappropriated, but were distributed to and used by qualified beneficiaries.
The smallest loan was P20,000, while the biggest salary loan was P200,000.
Of the nine borrowers who identified livelihood projects, the biggest loan went to then mayor Martinez, for P5.5 million, supposedly for a fish and prawn pond.
Respondent Minguez was granted a loan of P1 million for a mango farm, the ombudsman’s decision pointed out. The coop’s board chairman, Julio Ursonal, received a loan of P500,000 for tricycles.
In his counter-affidavit, Martinez said it was his duty to make sure the P20-million grant was “efficiently appropriated according to the dictates of his best judgment.”
He said the town entered into a contract with the BMEMPC because it is “already an established organization within the municipality with a built-in staff that could monitor the outflow of loans, including payments.”
Martinez said there was nothing in the agreement that prohibited him, as mayor, from availing of the loan for as long as it was used for agricultural concerns.
The ombudsman’s decision quoted Martinez as saying he “has long been engaged in agricultural enterprise and continues to expand the same with the aim to hire as many
as can be hired if only to ease the sad plight of the unemployed.”
Minguez and Verdida, in their joint counter-affidavit, also stated the agreement between the agriculture department and Bogo didn’t prohibit the use of the coop as a conduit or the inclusion of its members as beneficiaries.
“Respondents’ reasoning is flawed; it sounds plausible but only because it is based on an incomplete statement of facts,” the ombudsman’s decision stated.
It said that the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program, for which the P20 million was granted, was supposed “to empower the marginalized sector of the society, particularly those belonging in the agriculture and fisheries sector.”
The ombudsman said the loans should have prioritized “the farmers, fishermen and other marginalized sectors of Bogo” instead of the coop members, who were working for the municipal government.
“It is very illegal, immoral and unethical for the respondents to grant the livelihood loans exclusively to themselves and the members of the BMEMPC, majority of whom did not even have any livelihood program to implement,” the decision said.
It also pointed out that there are “laws that prohibit a public officer from directly or indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity.”
“Minguez is guilty of grave misconduct while Verdida and Ursal are guilty of simple misconduct only because the impudence with which they blatantly take advantage of the powers of their office is not as gross as their co-respondent,” decision stated.
It pointed out that the two loaned P100,000 each, compared to Minguez, who availed of
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 16, 2012.