Surigao City mayor, 14 others face new graft raps

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/26 July) — City Mayor Ernesto T. Matugas and 14 other persons are facing new graft cases filed by the mayor’s staunch critics in connection with his hiring of consultants and contractual employees.

Radio “block-timers” Jamar D. Gavino and Rey O. Culbo and businessman Bernardo A. Pecho have accused Matugas of violating, among others, the Local Government Code and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The three had earlier lodged graft charges against the mayor for supposedly accepting bribes from a mall magnate who is constructing a department store in the city.

Matugas laughed off the case, saying the three, who are identified with the camp of his political rivals, the Barbers, are sore losers who are out to destroy him for political reasons.

MindaNews sought the mayor for comment but a staffer said he was not available for interview. Calls and text messages to Balgamelo Ma, the mayor’s political adviser, remained unanswered on Sunday and Monday.

Gavino, Culbo and Pecho also included in the charge the 14 City Hall personnel that Matugas “illegally” hired. The Ombudsman received the complaint last Monday, July 18.

“The said 14 employees starting from the original contracts and to the renewal of the same were executed without the required authority of the city council as mandated by Section 455 of the Local Government Code,” according to the five-page complaint.

They argued that the amount of compensation and functions and duties of the respondent contractual employees were unilaterally determined by Mayor Matugas, “ignoring and illegally usurping the inherent power and authority of the city council to determine the power and duties of officials and employees of the city and to determine the positions, salaries, wages , allowances and other emoluments and benefits of officials paid wholly or mainly from city funds and provide for expenditures necessary for the proper conduct of programs, projects, services and activities of the city government.”

They claimed that Matugas unlawfully authorized the payment of the respondent contractual employees’ compensation as indicated in their respective service contracts.

The complaints also said that the contractual employees were contracted in total disregard of the provisions of Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act), adding that “their respective functions and duties as indicated in the Service Contracts are not beyond the capacity of the existing regular employees of the city government.”

The complainants added that “respondents by their mutual and concerted act of entering into service contracts in complete disregard of the applicable laws have caused undue injury to the City Government of Surigao to the tune of 2, 412,000.00 a year to the prejudice of other employees who are not paid on time”.

They alleged that the mayor gave unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to the accused contractual employees in consideration of their blind political allegiance to the city mayor to the prejudice of more qualified and competent regular and career employees of the city government.

The complaint said that the city mayor, in hiring those contractual employees, “did so with manifest partiality and evident bad faith as shown by his reckless disregard of the pertinent laws applicable in this case, thus clearly falling under the scope of Anti Graft Corrupt and Practices Act.”

They said that 10 of the hired contractual employees are occupying positions which exercise control and supervision over regular and career personnel in violation of Section 15 of Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No. 40, Series of 1998.

They named the 14 employees as Balgamelo Ma, Adviser on Political Affairs; Philip Sykimte, Financial Consultant; Mario I. Gesta, Integrated Land Transport Manager; Valeriano Ma, City Sports Coordinator; Cesar S. Conception, Head Tricycle Franchising Office; William M. Angob, Special Assistant on Financial Affairs; Gilgie G. Dagala, Executive Assistant on Financial Affairs;

Karen Chastity Ma, Assistant Head of Quick Action and Response Team; Michael D. Litang, Architectural Urban Planner; Retired Colonel Rodulfo E. Dela Piedra, Head of Civil Security Unit; Kim S. Olaivar, Legal Researcher; Maria Lowela P. Marasigan, Legal Researcher; Kim Jonas G. Orquillas, Jr., Special Executive Assistant and Emilda A. Retorta, Special Executive Assistant.

Gavino, Culbo and Pecho had earlier accused Matugas of accepting a check amounting to P5 million from businessman Henry Gaisano II.

Matugas said the amount was Gaisano’s payment for a land deal the two had previously engaged in. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)