Disciplinary court to litigate Bukidnon’s hospital controversy

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/ 15 November)– The “serious dishonesty” charges filed against nine ranking officials involving around P44 million worth of medicines and medical supplies will be heard by the five-member Provincial Discipline Committee.

Provincial administrator Provo Antipasado, who heads the disciplinary body, said they have yet to formally convene the body to hear the charges against the chief of the Provincial Economic Enterprise Development and Management Office (PEEDMO) and eight hospital administrators.

He said they are still awaiting the investigation report by the eight-member special investigation team.

Gov. Alex Calingasan, in a series of memoranda last October 30, charged the nine officials with “serious dishonesty in the course of official duties” over the hospital controversy.

He said they failed to reply on time to the show-cause order issued on October 29, and cited the results of the investigation of the four-member Fact Finding Committee created to determine prima facie case.

Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. in press conference on November 7, which Calingasan attended, identified the accused as PEEDMO 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.

Zubiri said the provincial discipline committee will pursue a deeper investigation, but vowed to afford the accused due process in the administrative proceedings.

Zubiri said the investigation would cover about P16 million worth of medicines and supplies purchased using unauthorized petty cash funds, and P27.5 million worth of medicines and supplies with bidding procedures questioned by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

Members of both the discipline and the investigation committees have started their “ground work” by checking the documentation and procurement processes at the Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center on November 13, Antipasado said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

He said the discipline committee will convene to deliberate the matter once the special investigation team turns in its official report.

Not all of the nine respondents have submitted their reply within the “five day upon receipt” notice.

Salvacion Dedicatoria, a member of the discipline committee, said three of the nine respondents have requested for a 15-day extension to submit a response.

“But we [have] started the field investigation already. We cannot wait for them to send their reply,” Antipasado said.

He said they needed to move ahead in the investigation especially that the respondents were not meted with preventive suspensions.

But Antipasado noted that the investigation may take a while as they need to check on the documents and processes of procurement in all eight hospitals.

“We have no time frame in mind. We are looking at reviewing voluminous documents,” he added.

Antipasado said they need to check on the documents if there were alterations or if requirements like purchase requests or orders were complied with.

In his memorandum, Calingasan described as “anomalous” the unauthorized use of petty cash funds in the purchase of medicines and other supplies.

Unabia denied the charges in a MindaNews interview on November 8, saying the respondents “have done no wrong.”

“ Nangutang lang mi kay walay tambal (We just loaned because there were no medicines),” she added.

Unabia said she would get a lawyer and vowed to give the media the “facts and figures” of the story.

The fact-finding committee earlier submitted its 15-point report to Calingasan, dated October 25.

The members of the fact-finding committee headed, by provincial legal officer Jeoffrey Sayson, have been included in the eight-member special investigation team now headed by Roger Guillermo, chief of the Provincial General Services Office. Guillermo was one of the four members of the fact-finding committee.

Sayson, who was bound to take a leave, is a member of the discipline committee as the provincial legal officer.

Section 84, 86, and 87 of the Local Government Code provided rules on administrative discipline, administrative investigation, and disciplinary jurisdiction.

Section 86 said “administrative investigation may be conducted by a person or a committee duly authorized by the local chief executive. Said person or committee shall conduct hearings on the cases brought against appointive local officials and employees and submit their findings and recommendations to the local chief executive concerned within 15 days from the conclusion of the hearings. The administrative cases herein mentioned shall be decided within 90 days from the time the respondent is formally notified of the charges.”

But the investigation and adjudication of administrative complaints against appointive local officials and employees, the code said, “shall be in accordance with the civil service law and rules and other pertinent laws. The results of such administrative investigations shall be reported to the Civil Service Commission.”(Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)