MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 9 Nov) – Gov. Alex Calingasan has charged nine provincial government officials, including eight hospital administrators, with “serious dishonesty in the course of official duties” over their use of petty cash in the purchase of medicines.
In his memorandum, Calingasan described as “anomalous” the unauthorized use of petty cash funds in the purchase of medicines and other supplies. He directed the officials to “answer within 5 days from receipt,” reminded them of their right for a counsel, and “whether you elect to have a formal investigation of the charge.”
Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr., in press conference Thursday, identified the accused as PEEDMO (Provincial Economic Enterprise Development and Management Office) chief Marie Carmen Unabia, Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center administrator Corazon Jamero, Bukidnon Provincial Hospital (BPH)-San Fernando administrative officer Daryl Minguez, BPH-Maramag administrator Janet Mercadera, BPH-Manolo Fortich administrator Judy Pancrudo, BPH-Kibawe administrative officer Elvira Roa, BPH-Talakag administrative officer Mario Cedeño, BPH-Kalilangan administrative officer Merlyn Calam, and BPH-Malitbog administrative officer Juanito Kilem.
One of those charged, however, said they have not done any irregularities and have stood united amid the investigation.
“We did nothing wrong. We just loaned money because there was no money to buy medicines,” said Unabia.
She said she is employing a lawyer to defend herself in what she called a “trial by publicity.” She vowed to give MindaNews a copy of their responses on the “facts and figures” of the story.
“The people will judge (if we did wrong)” Unabia noted.
In a series of memorandums issued to the nine officials, Calingasan said they failed to reply on time to the show-cause order issued last Oct. 29. He also cited the results of the investigation of the four-member fact finding committee created to determine prima facie case.
Zubiri said the provincial discipline committee will pursue more in depth investigation but vowed to afford the accused of due process in the administrative proceeding.
Lawyer Jeffrey Sayson, provincial legal officer and fact finding committee head, said once they get the responses from the officials concerned, they will schedule hearings to determine probable cause.
“Depending on their explanation the accused could get exonerated or worse, with insufficient responses, they could possibly be dismissed,” he added.
The fact-finding committee, after evaluating existing documents and holding clarificatory meetings with the officials concerned, submitted a 15-point initial report dated Oct. 25 to Calingasan.
One of the items cited in the report, a copy of which was obtained from a member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, stated that the PEEDMO and the hospital administrators admitted that they continued the use of the petty cash “despite the stoppage” by the Provincial Accountant’s Office and the Bids and Awards Committee.
The report also said the accused officials admitted that the guidelines in the use of petty cash in terms of replenishment and the transaction limit, which was approved by the provincial board, was “not followed.”
It was found out that the hospital administrators “were forced” to go on credit due to the demands of the PIHP (Provincial Indigency Health Project).
Another item said the PEEDMO expressed their dilemma of fulfilling their mandate of providing medicines and service to the clients and the limitations provided for by the law in the procurement of medicines and supplies.
Sayson stressed that among the reasons they called the press conference was to make it clear that the proofs showed that the provincial government was not remiss in providing the medicines.
He cited that more than P40 million worth of medicines and supplies were bought in the mix of petty cash and unauthorized purchases in a course of six months. He said the province allots P80 million for the account in a year.
In a resolution passed Wednesday afternoon, the provincial board backed the steps taken by the provincial governor to organize a fact-finding committee and to formally charge the accused. Board members further recommended preventive suspension, if needed, “to ensure integrity of the result of the investigation.”
The board said in the draft of the resolution that the committee was needed to determine the truth of the matter, and to impose sanctions for those who are responsible of the unauthorized act. They cited the need for the provincial discipline committee, headed by provincial administrator Provo Antipasado, to pursue the investigation.
But the resolution also cited that “due process must be accorded to all concerned.”
Reports of no medicines and medical supplies among public hospitals, especially the Bukidnon Provincial Medical Hospital (BPMC), hogged the headlines again in September.
Provincial board member Ranulfo Pepito, in a privilege speech on Sept. 26, questioned the lack of medicines and supplies at the BPMC, citing that some patients were allegedly refused admission because of the problem.
Pepito said he received reports from a Valencia City-based private hospital that the latter admitted patients whom the BPMC allegedly refused because the hospital did not have oxygen and X-ray film, among others.
One victim suffered a stab wound, while another reportedly had serious ailment. The latter patient eventually died, Pepito said. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)