Ombudsman junks cases vs ex-CSF mayor, others

Ombudsman junks cases vs ex-CSF mayor, others

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed the criminal and administrative charges filed against former San Fernando Mayor Edwin Santiago and several key city government officials and employees, including three private individuals.

The cases docketed as OMB-L-C-21-0094 (violation of Section 3 [e], [f] and [g] of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft Practices Act) and OMB-L-A-21-0078 (dishonesty, grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct and violation of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees).

These emanated from charges filed by former Barangay Dolores chairman Melchor Caluag.

Santiago and the other respondents, Caluag claimed, misused funds intended for Covid-19 mitigation and relief assistance for Fernandinos during the height of the pandemic in March 2020 to June 2020.

The joint resolution dated February 3, 2023---a certified true copy of which was obtained by SunStar Pampanga on March 13, 2023---was signed by Ombudsman of the Philippines Samuel Martires, dismissed both cases against Santiago, Maria Gisel Rivera, Michael Quizon, Aileen Villanueva, Renely Tungol and Mary Ann Bautista among key officials named for lack of probable cause and substantial evidence.

The Ombudsman also cleared in the resolution 10 administrative aides, plus the three private contractors, of involvement in the alleged overpricing of relief goods distributed to Fernandinos as the city was locked down and residents forced to stay at home to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

On June 19, 2020, Caluag was accompanied by then Department of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Diño, when he filed the complaints.

Caluag questioned the alleged P20-million in unspent Covid-19 funds found by a Sangguniang Panlungsod Ad Hoc Committee, overpricing, and procurement irregularities that placed the city government in a manifestly disadvantageous position.

Other allegations claimed by the complainant, as stated in the resolution, included

"he [Santiago] bought second-hand vehicles, then refurbished and sold them to the city government; he purchased, through several dummies, several lots located in Barangay Malpitic, City of San Fernando, then later sold the same lots to the city government; and he constructed zigzag and dangerous roads to connect all lands he bought."

The Ombudsman said that "there is no probable cause to indict respondents for violation of Section 3 (e), (f) and (g) of RA No. 3019" and "there is likewise no substantial evidence to hold public respondents guilty of administrative offenses of dishonesty, grave misconduct, grave abuse of authority and violation of RA No. 6713."

The resolution stated “verily, records show that the COA [Commission of Audit], after conducting six audits for the period of 31 March 2020 to 31 December 2021, found that the office of respondent Santiago, representing the government of City of San Fernando, Pampanga, has zero notice of disallowance, suspension and charges, thereby belying complainant’s claim of overpricing and/or irregularities in the procurement made March 2020 to June 2020.”

Santiago welcomed the Ombudsman's decision.

"Malino ya at patas ing resolusyun. Meramdam la reng misumangid. Ing keka tamu naman gewa ta mu para kareng Fernandinos at kabalen ing kailangan na makatuki keng ustung prosesu." (The resolution is clear and fair. Both sides were heard. We did what was needed for Fernandinos in adherence to proper procedures," Santiago said.

SunStar Pampanga tried to reach out to Caluag yesterday for comments but a source close to him said he was out of town for important commitments.


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