COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/08 April) — After finding herself on the hot seat for the bloody dispersal of protesting farmers in Kidapawan City last week, North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza is facing another challenge after the Ombudsman sued her for graft.
Mendoza is facing three counts of graft for the purchase by the provincial government of fuel amounting to P2.4 million from the Taliño Shell gas station, which is owned by her mother.
In a statement Friday, April 8, Ombudsman Teresita Carpio-Morales said her office has found probable cause to charge Mendoza with graft before the Sandiganbayan.
The governor approved the release of P2.4 million from the provincial coffers to pay for 49,526.72 liters of fuel used during a two-day road repair project, the Ombudsman said.
She did not conduct any bidding and instead contracted the Taliño Shell Station, which is owned by her mother, the Ombudsman added.
The fuel was said to be used for government vehicles – one road grader and four dump trucks – utilized during the two-day road rehabilitation projects.
Morales said “[respondent] made it appear that the diesel fuel was procured and used in a government project when in truth, only a small portion of the fuel was actually used and the rest was converted to cash for the benefit of those who were involved in the fraudulent transaction.”
She noted that “the great disparity between the estimated 552 liters of diesel actually consumed for the two-day road maintenance project in Magpet vis-à-vis the 20,833 liters actually paid for, is proof that the fuel-purchase transaction is illegal and that this transaction is obviously a scheme to pocket government funds.”
Section 3(e) of R.A . No. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, states: “A public officer is prohibited from causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”
But lawyer Vincent Paul Montejo, legal counsel of Mendoza said Mendoza expressed confidence she will be able to address all the Ombudsman’s accusations.
“Any accusation of partiality, preference or bias in favor of any gas station has no basis. What should be borne in mind is that Gov. Mendoza is not a member of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC),” he said.
“It follows then that she did not handpick or select any particular station as the Province’s supplier for the P2.4M fuel,” he added.
“Contrary to what the Ombudsman is saying, the fuel was procured after it went through a form of bidding, allowed under the Government Procurement Act and as recommended by the BAC”, Montejo said.
He said the Ombudsman ignored evidence that the fuel was actually used for the province’s road projects.
Taliño explained her mother’s gas was the only one which agreed to “accommodate the credit term requested by the provincial government” but Morales countered that “there was no compelling justification for dispensing with the requirement of public bidding.”
Mendoza has been put on the hot seat after the bloody clash between police and farmers who staged a barricade in Kidapawan to demand rice assistance from the provincial government due to the hardships caused by the El Nino phenomenon.
The dispersal is now the subject of separate investigations by the Philippine National Police, Commission on Human Rights, Senate and National Bureau of Investigation.
Mendoza is running unopposed for her third term under ruling Liberal Party. (Ferdinandh Cabrera and Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)