10 City Hall employees fired over senior citizen aid anomalies

File photo
File photo

TEN job order (JO) employees under the Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs (Osca) in Cebu City Hall, who were hired during the time of the late mayor Edgardo Labella, were terminated over their involvement in anomalies related to the distribution of the financial aid of senior citizens.

The fact-finding committee of the Cebu City Government discovered that the 10 employees were implicated in signing the master list which contained the names of already deceased senior citizens as well as claiming the financial assistance of living senior citizens through authorization.

In an interview with SunStar Cebu on Monday, August 7, 2023, Homer Cabaral, chairman of the fact-finding committee, said investigations started around December 2022 after numerous complaints from senior citizens from Barangay Inayawan that their financial assistance had already been claimed.

Cabaral said these acts were committed during the time of Labella, Mayor Michael Rama’s predecessor.

Labella was mayor from June 30, 2019 until his death mid-office on November 19, 2021, whereupon his then vice mayor, Rama, took the City’s top seat.

Cabaral said the amount taken in Barangay Inayawan which was investigated is estimated to be around P540,000. Cabaral said the figure is much larger when you take into account the 300 ghost senior citizens that were also discovered in the whole city.

“Kadtong sa Inayawan, dako-dako to, mga 45 seniors man to. Estimate lang, imo imultiply pila ang financial aid, P12,000 one year sa usa ka senior. So P12,000 x 45,” said Cabaral.

(In Inaayawan, the amount was quite big because it involved 45 living senior citizens. Just as an estimate, multiply financial aid of P12,000 per year for every senior citizen, that’s P12,000 x 45.)

Ghost senior citizens refer to the names of people in the master list who are not actual registered senior citizens.


Cabaral said during the investigation process, a whistleblower came forward and informed them of the acts done by the JO employees. There were also supporting documents that showed proof of the anomalies. The JO employees gave their statements and did not deny committing the acts.

“Ila man giangkon. Mao nay nakadali sa imbestigasyon,” said Cabaral.

(They admitted to committing the acts. That’s what sped up the investigation.)

When asked for the reasons the JO employees committed the acts, Cabaral said it was due to personal reasons and that the terminated employees had regretted their decisions.

Cabaral said three of the 10 JO employees had paid back the senior citizens they had taken assistance from.

Legal action

Cabaral said a legal case can be filed but that this and any other further action are now up to the city government since the fact-finding committee is just an investigative body.

The committee had already given its recommendation to the City, which was to terminate the employees and deny renewal of contract.

Cabaral said their recommendation had been carried out by the city government before the Commission on Audit (COA) released its 2022 annual audit report for Cebu City last month.

“Mao bitaw nga naa nay reorganization sa senior citizen [Osca]. Siya [Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama] man ga-organize because of our recommendation,” said Cabaral.

(That is why there has been a reorganization of the Osca. It was Mayor Rama who reorganized it because of our recommendation.)

“Kung nangawat, ikiha (If they stole, they should be sued),” said Rama in a phone interview when asked what the city government will do moving forward.

COA finds lapses

COA noted various lapses in the grant of financial assistance to senior citizens totaling P922.78 million in 2022, such as claims through authorization despite explicit prohibition, inconsistent signatures, inclusion in the distribution payroll of deceased senior citizens, and signed payroll for deceased senior citizens.

The City disbursed a total of P922.78 million in 2022 for such a program.

COA conducted an audit using more than 5,000 samples. It found that in 2022, senior citizens who were unable to personally claim their financial assistance were subjected to different guidelines set by the City or the executive director of the Osca depending on the distribution period.

The state auditors also noted that some beneficiaries’ signatures appeared to differ significantly from one payroll to another, which raised doubts about their authenticity.

From the data the COA gathered, 4,691 senior citizens died in 2021 and 3,727 in 2022. After cross-checking 1,483 samples, it found 30 deceased senior citizens still included in the current payroll.

COA discovered that the names of 13 deceased senior citizens had been signed, manifesting that their financial assistance had been claimed.

COA also noted large amounts of unclaimed or returned funds amounting to P40.225 million, indicating either excessive grant of cash advances or flawed distribution methods.

The state auditors recommended improving the City’s distribution and communication methods by having a fixed distribution schedule per barangay with a clear communication flow employing all available platforms to reach target beneficiaries.


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