Ombudsman sacks 6 Minglanilla town officials

SIX department heads of the Minglanilla Municipal Government have been dismissed after they were found guilty for grave misconduct by the Office of the Ombudsman last June.

This concerned the misuse of P1 million in funds from the Ginintoang Masaganang Ani Program allocated to the Municipality during the time of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo back in 2008.

The department heads were identified as bids and awards committee (BAC) head Celeste Enad, Municipal Treasurer Wilfredo Alidon, Municipal Engineer Nestor Sotes, Municipal Assessor Clemente Lavador, Municipal Civil Registrar Zenaida Jakosalem and Municipal Accountant Brenda Java.

The six officials have also been perpetually disqualified from holding office, their civil service eligibility has been canceled and their retirement benefits have been forfeited.

The department heads served as members of the town's BAC during the time of the late mayor Eduardo Selma.

Jerome Gonzales, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Cebu Provincial director, presented the dismissal order to the Municipality last Tuesday.

Direct contracting

With the dismissal of his department heads, Minglanilla Mayor Elanito Pena is hiring officers-in-charge to take their places.

On June 30, 2005, the BAC approved Bajo's request to directly procure 40 Tongho sprayers from M.A. Guerrero Enterprises.

The town paid P609,120 to Guerrero Enterprises on July 18, 2005.

In the same year, BAC members planned the procurement of 236 liters of Agri-Saver Liquid Fertilizer at P1,250 per liter, or a total of P295,000, for the town's Plant Nutrition Program.

The same officials acquired the liquid fertilizer from Guerrero Enterprises only through a BAC recommendation and without an approved resolution from the Municipal Council.

But an annual audit report conducted by the Commission on Audit found the chemical contents of the liquid fertilizer were below the specifications stated in the labels of the bottles.

State auditors also discovered that the sprayers were overpriced by 749.40 percent, or by P15,550, per unit, or a total of P622,000.

The report also stated that the procurement should not have been done through direct contracting, as there are plenty of available suppliers nationwide for common agricultural commodities.

State Auditor Ma. Elsa Eguia recommended rejecting the procurement of the fertilizers and requiring those in charge of the bidding and procurement to refund the total amount of P917,000.

Due to the anomalous deal, a complaint was filed against the officials involved in the bidding and procurement.

The respondents denied the allegations that the items they acquired were overpriced.

Motion for reconsideration

But in their decision, the Special Panel on Fertilizer Fund Scam found that the bidding and procurement were done in undue haste.

"Clearly, the acquiesence of respondents Enad, Sotes, Jakosalem, Lavador, Alidon and Java in the procurement of the sprayers and fertilizers through direct contracting, manifested their partiality in favor of Guerrero Enterprises to the undue injury of the Government as it was not given the opportunity to get the best deal," the decision states.

In a separate interview, Municipal Administrator Concordio Mejias said they were saddened by the dismissal of the six officials, who have been working for the town for a long time.

But Mejias said that the six officials plan to submit their motion for reconsideration before the anti-graft office. In the case that their motions are dismissed, the officials plan to take the matter to the Court of Appeals.

Mejias, however, clarified that the dismissal of the six officials will not affect the town's delivery of basic services.
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