Ex-Zambo town official stripped of retirement benefits

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 October) – Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has ordered the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) to forfeit the retirement benefits of a former municipal treasurer in Katipunan, Zamboanga del Norte, following a ruling by the Ombudsman finding him guilty of “grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.”

In a press statement, Dominguez ordered BLGF acting executive director Nino Raymond Alvina to implement the Ombudsman’s ruling against former Katipunan treasurer Cipriano Plazos and forfeit all his retirement benefits.

Alvina was tasked to submit a compliance report within five days and to furnish a copy to the Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao.

In May 2016, the Ombudsman found Plazos, Katipunan Mayor Crisostomo Eguia Jr. and municipal accountant Urdaneta Madridondo guilty of malversation.

Plazos served as municipal treasurer of Katipunan under Mayor Equia from 1998 until his retirement in 2011 when the latter received some questionable P2 million in cash advances for travel expenses.

Citing a report from the Commission on Audit (COA), the Ombudsman found out that “Eguia’s cash advances dating as far back in 1998 remained unliquidated despite demand in February 2012 to account for the public funds. From 1998 to 2011, Eguia received a total of P2million in cash advances for travel expenses.  Upon audit, several deficiencies were reported by the COA such as lack of supporting documents, no travel order, lack of receipts, and the itinerary of travels were approved by the mayor himself instead of the governor.”

Eguia is facing 90 counts of graft, 89 counts of violation of Section 89 of P.D. 1445, otherwise known as the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines, and 55 counts of Malversation before the Sandiganbayan.

The mayor and the two others were ordered dismissed from service after they were found guilty of “gross misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.”

“They were also meted the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility and forfeiture of retirement benefits.  In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondents’ one year salary,” it added.

Plazos was also penalized with “cancellation of his eligibility, perpetual disqualification from holding public office and taking civil service examinations.”

Dominguez has vowed to act swiftly against erring officials under his supervision to send a strong message that irregularities would never be tolerated under his watch.

(Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)