Saturday, 28th February 2015

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By: Florence F. Hibionada

THE Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas found “substantial evidence” in the administrative liabilities of an Iloilo mayor and four top town officials over a graft charge.

But the penalty looks “moot and academic” on three of the five accused as the Ombudsman decision came out 10 years after the filing of the case.

Docketed as OMB-V-A-05-0341-G, ordered suspended for six months without pay were Janiuay Mayor Frankie Locsin and four key personalities of his 2001 administration: Municipal Accountant Carlos Moreno Jr., Budget Officer Ramon Tirador, Treasurer Luzviminda Figueroa and mayor’s aide Ricardo Minurtio.

Locsin was spared of the administrative charges and sanctions after he was reelected as Janiuay mayor last year, thus extinguishing the administrative aspect of the case under the Aguinaldo doctrine.

The criminal cases pending with the Sandiganbayan, however, continues.

The Daily Guardian (TDG) learned though that no longer in the current Locsin administration are Figueroa and Minurtio.

The administrative charge for misconduct stemmed from the P15-million assistance of Senator Vicente Sotto coursed through Januiay. Said town was used as conduit of the funds with Locsin as the then president of the Municipal Mayor’s League of Iloilo.

The Commission on Audit (COA) suspended and disallowed the transaction which the Ombudsman used as basis for upgrading the initial complaint.

Established were the following: Bidding was January 15, 2001 with three supposed bidders, Philpharmawealth Corp, AM Europharma Corporation and Mallix Drug Center. Same day, the Ombudsman noted, Mayor Locsin approved P13.1-million worth of contract to AM Europharma and P1.7 million to Mallix Drug Center.

“The medicines were immediately delivered the following day which was January 16, 2001 and Mayor Locsin certified to have accepted the medicines which were then inspected and found correct by Gabriel M. Billena, Supply Officer II. On January 17, 2001, the purchases were fully paid,” the Decision continued.

Questions were further raised on the regularity and propriety of contract grant to AM Europharma and Mallix Drug Center’s “....despite the fact that Mr. Rod D. Villanueva is both the President and General Manager of AM-Europharma and the sole proprietor of Mallix Drug Center...”

Philpharmawealth, for its part, as one of the alleged bidders, denied participation in the P15-million Sotto-funded transaction.

“...What remains now to be resolved is the issue on whether or not respondents can be held for violation of Section 3 (e) & (g) of RA 3019 and for violation of RA 9184,” the Ombudsman stated.

The anti-graft probe body ruled that the bidding gave “unwarranted benefits” to the winning bidder.

“As there are strong and clear indications that the respondents are in complicity with the supplier in the present case, then substantial evidence do exist to establish that respondents committed misconduct in office,” the Ombudsman said. “For all it shows respondents’ act of conferring unwarranted benefit to Mallix Drug Center and AM-Europharma Corporation is subject to no other acceptable conclusion other than that a deliberate misconduct was committed...”

“Wherefore, in view or the foregoing, this Office hereby finds substantial evidence that Frankie H. Locsin, Carlos C. Moreno Jr., Ramon T. Tirador, Luzviminda P. Figueroa and Ricardo S. Minurtio committed Simple Misconduct in Office and hereby imposes on them the penalty of Six (6) Months Suspension from Office Without Pay,” dispositive portion of the Decision went.

Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer II Mona Chica Cabanes-Gillamac penned the decision. Review was made by Ombudsman Director Edgardo Canton with Ombudsman Virginia Palanca Santiago recommending the approval.

 

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