CEBU Governor Hilario Davide III and 14 other officials are facing criminal charges before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas over the allegedly illegal release of P40 million to various barangay chiefs and treasurers in the third district.

One Cebu Party, through its legal officer Mel Abnir Amadora, filed six counts of malversation of public funds against Davide, Acting Provincial Treasurer Emmanuel Guial and Provincial Board (PB) Member Grecilda Sanchez-Zaballero.

“In their lame attempt to wiggle out of the mess, Governor Davide and PB Member Zaballero claimed that everything was in order and that the release was regular. Governor Davide, whose office the bulk of the funds came from, even boasted that the release was in order as it was given to barangays without any discrimination and/or bias,” the complaint said.

Also charged with one count of malversation of public funds were the 12 barangay officials from Asturias, Cebu.

April 7 report

Davide is seeking reelection against One Cebu’s candidate Winston Garcia while Zaballero is running in the third district against reelectionist Gwen Garcia of One Cebu. Gwen is Winston’s sister and a former governor.

One Cebu cited a report by Sun.Star Cebu on April 7, which stated that Capitol officials released checks dated last March 21, 2016 to the barangay treasurers.

The report quoted two unnamed barangay officials, who claimed they were provided with a concept paper on the “Gasa sa Kabarangayan Program,” which was supposedly intended to give local government units (LGUs) in the third district “the needed resources to promote hygiene and sanitation.”

The barangay officials claimed they were told by the Capitol personnel who distributed the checks to submit accomplishment reports that would have to be antedated, to make it appear that their projects were implemented before the official campaign period for local officials began.

The sources said they knew of 10 barangays in Toledo City, out of 38, that received P1 million each.

The sources said some of the barangay treasurers from Toledo City and the towns of Aloguinsan, Pinamungajan, Asturias, Balamban and Tuburan had refused to disburse the funds for fear of being charged with graft.

LP allies

In the charge sheet, One Cebu said the Office of the Provincial Treasurer released P40 million to various LGUs in the third district.

The recipients, the complaint said, are headed by known political supporters and allies of Davide and Zaballero.

Among the LGUs are Barangays Tubod, Libogon, Agbanga, Bairan, Lanao and Poblacion in Asturia, which received the uniform amount of P1 million, according to the complaint.

The P1 million was supposed to be released for the beautification project of Zaballero. But the document from the Provincial Treasurer’s Office and signed by cashier Maricar Sanchez Rosario made it appear that the amounts were released last March 17. One Cebu said Rosario is a cousin of Zaballero.

One Cebu said the two barangay officials, who were quoted in the reports, complained that after receiving the checks, they were told to submit an antedated accomplishment report to make it appear that the beautification projects had already been implemented; and, second, to remit P750,000 to a Capitol official.

The party said the opposition mayors of Asturias, Pinamungajan and Aloguinsan claimed that not only did their own requests to Capitol for funding remain unheeded, they did not notice any beautification work or project in the recipient barangays.

“Other than self-serving denials, the officials concerned could not present the appropriate proof (the requests, copies of the encashed checks, program of work, work schedules, disbursement documents) to support their claim of regularity.

Deputy Ombudsman Paul Elmer Clemente was asked to investigate the respondents and, if warranted, charge them with malversation of public funds, pursuant to Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.