Ombud dismisses malversation raps vs ex-MIWD execs-A A +A
Sunday, July 29, 2012
THE Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas dismissed anew one of several criminal cases filed against former executives of the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD).
Standing as complainant in the cases was the Ombudsman's Public Assistance and Corruption Prevention Office (Pacpo), while the respondents were former MIWD board chairman Enrique Arguelles and former directors Andres Jamora, Celso Javelosa, Florecita Gelvezon and Norberto Posecion.
At the center of the controversy was the 2004 incentive bonus granted to the respondents totaling P1,068,000. Each of the respondents received P213,600 in two releases disallowed by the Commission On Audit (COA), with the disbursement ruled as lacking of legal basis.
As such, criminal complaint for malversation of public funds was filed before the Ombudsman, yet investigation cleared the former MIWD officials of any wrongdoing.
The respondents, the Ombudsman said, admitted the passage of a resolution for the bonuses' release "but denied any criminal liability."
The five respondents said MIWD General Manager Le Jayme Jalbuena even certified and approved the disbursement vouchers for the subject bonuses and issued the checks therefore.
The Ombudsman said that things only changed when Jalbuena was charged by one of the respondents for gross neglect of duty and inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of duties before the MIWD board.
In between this period, at least 11 other Ombudsman cases were filed against the MIWD board which to date were also dismissed.
"Considering therefore the historical background of the relationship between complainant and respondents, the latter asserted that the present charge is an act of revenge," excerpts of the Ombudsman resolution read, noting that under the law, the MIWD board members "are expressly given discretion" to grant allowances and benefits "subject only to approval by higher-ups in the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA).”
"In the extant case, the receipt of allowances by respondents BOD members was already fait accompli, before LWUA approval was sought," the resolution added. "This, by itself, cannot qualify as a criminal transgression, in the absence of evidence to show that respondents acted with bad faith, malice, fraud, corruption or other ill motives."
As for the COA findings, the Ombudsman averred, "the matter depends upon the COA having competent jurisdiction, to order the execution of its disallowance of the subject allowance, if the said disallowance had become final."
Same contention applied with the LWUA stance.
"If the LWUA disapproved or suspended its approval over the particular allowance subject of this controversy, the proper liability of respondents, at most, would be civil in nature, that is - personal liability to refund or to return whatever was received," the Ombudsman added.
Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer II Amy Rose Soler-Rellin penned the Ombudsman resolution as approved by Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol.