By Perfecto Raymundo, Jr.
MANILA — An anti-corruption watchman is calling for a speedy probe on the plunder case he filed with the Office of the Ombudsman in 2013 against former Camarines Sur Gov. Luis Raymond Villafuerte, now Camarines Sur 2nd district representative, on the PHP101.7-million “Tent City” funded by the province.
Citizen Crime Watch secretary general Carlo Batalla has been questioning the construction in 2011 of the so-called “Tent City” at the provincial capitol grounds for the “22nd Philippine Advertising Congress” that Camarines Sur hosted at that time.
“The said Philippine Ad Congress did, in fact, took place. However, it turned out to be an occasion to bilk and prejudice the province of Camarines Sur,” Batalla said in his complaint.
Batalla said despite the huge amount spent, the event failed to generate any income for the province and that the venue itself is now practically useless after being battered by typhoons that have hit the province.
“This is a waste of public money,” said Batalla, who used to be a board member of the Camarines Sur provincial government.
After a thorough probe, the Ombudsman filed the complaint before the Sandiganbayan for a full-blown trial.
A report by the Commission on Audit (COA) for 2011 said the diversion of the fund for the construction of the venue was not even part of the province’s annual investment plan (AIP) and local development plan (LDP).
“These resulted in the non-implementation of various programs/projects/activities that were prioritized and approved by the provincial development council (PDC) and were embodied in the (approved) AIP/LDP,” the COA report said.
In a separate opinion, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) also questioned the authority of Villafuerte in approving the diversion of the fund for the project without the concurrence of the Sangguniang Panglalawigan (SP).
In 2016, Villafuerte was elected as representative for the second district of Camarines Sur but had to serve a 90-day preventive suspension upon the order of the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division for another case filed by Batalla involving diesel fuel.
In 2011, Batalla charged then Camarines Sur governor Villafuerte and provincial bids and awards committee head Jeffrey Lo for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by allegedly making diesel fuel purchases without public bidding.
Batalla had also posted bail for a counter-charge of libel case filed against him by Villafuerte. (PNA)