Vice Gov. Zubiri leaving for US to accompany ailing wife amid COA graft probe

MALAYBALAY CITY – (MindaNews/6 Oct.) – Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. announced he will be leaving for the United States this month to accompany his wife, Ma. Victoria (or “Vicky”), for medical procedures there in the midst of an investigation by the Commission on Audit of a graft complaint against him.

The vice governor said he has to be the one to accompany his ailing wife in this trip. He will be flying to an undisclosed US city on Oct. 21 and will file a leave of absence starting from his date of departure until his expected return on Nov. 14.

Zubiri’s trip comes before results are released to the public of a COA special audit team’s investigation of a graft complaint against him filed by an anonymous group calling itself the “Northern Mindanao Concerned Citizens Against Graft and Corruption.”

Sources said the COA investigating team issued notices of suspension of funds in August as a result of its investigation, but MindaNews is yet to get official copies of the documents.

The investigation included alleged fraud in the release of millions of pesos of Bukidnon’s 20-percent development fund from 2007 to 2010, the release of extra bonus to regular employees amounting to P80,000 each, alleged anomaly in the implementation of the Department of Agriculture’s fertilizer program, and the management of the province’s health program for indigents.

Back in July, Zubiri denied committing fraud in any of the transactions cited in the complaint, which he said he welcomed even if unsigned.

He said that when he received the COA letter informing him of the unsigned complaint, he wrote back and told the audit body to proceed.

Zubiri said he will answer next week before his US trip the issues raised in the COA investigation.

These are busy times for the vice governor, amid the marathon budget hearings at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan that started Oct. 5. Board members are deliberating on the sources of income and the distribution of the 20-percent local development fund on Gov. Alex Calingasan’s proposed P1.33-billion budget.

Sources said the board members agreed to hold the marathon hearings before Zubiri leaves for the US but they intend to approve the budget only upon his return next month. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)