By Joey Natividad
LEGAZPI CITY, Albay, 14April2015 (BicolToday.com) – Being “clean” for 17 years in office, as claimed by Albay Governor Joey Salceda, it is the first time he is facing malversation raps for alleged ghost deliveries of aid which did not reach the actual beneficiaries, but on official reports, the goods were properly received.
The aid was supposed to be delivered to affected communities and evacuees during the Mayon Volcano eruption in 2009.
Complaint filed at Ombudsman
Complainants Michael Mina, Manuel Alagaban Sr., Julius Del Rosario, Bienvenido Belga Sr. and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption chairman Martin Dino, filed before the Ombudsman a complaint against Governor Joey Salceda for alleged malversation of P47 million sourced from the Malampaya funds received by the Albay Provincial Government.
With Salceda in the complaint is the provincial social welfare and development head Yolanda Guanzon.
The complainants asked the Ombudsman’s office to place Salceda and Guanzon under preventive suspension pending preliminary investigation of the accusations against them.
Alleged aid went nowhere
According to complainants, the constituents of Del Rosario and Joselito Lana, both barangay captains, did not receive sacks of rice even when they were listed as supposed beneficiaries of aid for evacuees.
The complaint alleged that other barangay residents, who were supposed to receive bundles of firewood, also denied receiving any aid.
Residents of barangays Padang, Matanag and Bogna denied that the signatures on the Commission on Audit’s (COA) firewood distribution list were theirs.
“A number of its alleged beneficiaries from the provincial government of Albay did not receive the help supposedly extended to them by the said local government unit. This only gives rise to the legal presumption that that the subject allotment, or at least a portion thereof, was used for a purpose different from that for which it was intended,” the complaint read.
“As head of the provincial government of Albay, Salceda is responsible for all government funds pertaining to the said local government unit… He cannot therefore feign ignorance about the glaring misuse of the P47-million allotment from the Malampaya fund,” it added.
The complaint also said that Guanzon is allegedly liable for her direct hand in the disbursement of the fund and falsification of documents submitted to COA, making it to appear the aid for beneficiaries was delivered.
Meanwhile, Salceda denied the accusation, saying, “I can’t be glad that a case has been filed against me, the first ever in my entire political life of 17 years and on my last year as Albay governor”.
“My conscience is clear and the facts and records will clear me. I assure all Albayanos that I will not allow it to slow down our programs. I have a job to do,” the governor said Tuesday in a statement sent to media.
However, Governor Salceda claimed ignorance about sourcing from the Malampaya funds.
The Governor even insisted that there was no malversation since the Provincial Government did not ask for the Malampaya funds.
“First, no malversation because in no way did Albay ask for Malampaya funds what we asked for was calamity assistance with Mayon at Alert 4 and evacuation of 10,000 families-at-risk approximating 97 days. We received the amount in the form of calamity assistance, regardless of source. Second. we had no knowledge that it was Malampaya and who are we to select or demand the source of the financial assistance especially when we were in times of calamity. It came from the National Government with OCD recommendation and released by DBM, so the presumption is that the funding source must be regular,” Salceda insisted.
Fake recipients list
The complaint continued: Residents displaced by Mayon’s unrest were supposed to receive firewood bundles and sacks of rice from the National Food Authority. Also, evacuees should have benefitted from government feeding programs.
Residents of Barangays San Roque and Victory Village, who were affected by the eruption, did not receive any aid even when they were listed as among the beneficiaries of the Malampaya fund in the documents submitted to COA by DSWD office in Albay.
Passing the buck
However, Salceda reasoned out, passing the buck to department offices: “In times of calamity response, all relief goods have been posted in PhilGEPS, procured and inspected in accordance with law and they have been distributed in accordance with the distribution list approved by Albay Public Safety & Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) and thereafter released by the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO).”
“Thus, all funds including fund transfers from the National Government are fully accounted for and there are no such ghost deliveries,” the
Governor said, naming the departments, hoping for a bureaucratic paper-chase.
“If these supposed recipients failed to get their reported allocation, hahanapin namin kung sino ang kumuha at uusigin [we will look for those who got the allocation and make them answerable],” added Salceda.
The governor promised that “as early as tomorrow (Wednesday),” APSEMO chief Cedric Daep, statistician Cristina C. Santos, PSWDO’s Yollie Guanzon, and provincial budget officer Lilybeth Reforsado “will publicly account for the P47-million” Malampaya fund. [BicolToday.com]