Sarangani board member sacked over funds misuse

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 1 May) – The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has ordered the immediate removal from office of a provincial board member of Sarangani Province in connection with a dismissal verdict issued by the Office of the Ombudsman a decade ago over a fund misuse case.

Lawyer Muamar Rhys Guiamadel, DILG Region 12 legal counsel, said Wednesday the DILG central office issued the dismissal order against Sarangani board member Eugene Alzate after the Court of Appeals (CA) reinstated in January its previous ruling that upheld the latter’s dismissal by the Ombudsman for dishonesty and grave misconduct.

“The CA returned to its original ruling, dismissing Alzate. That decision included corresponding accessory penalties such as the cancellation of his (civil service) eligibility, disqualification to hold any public office and forfeiture of benefits,” Guiamadel explained.

The official formally served Alzate’s dismissal order, which was signed by DILG Undersecretary for Local Government Austere Panadero, at the Sarangani provincial capitol in Alabel town on Tuesday morning.

Alzate is a known ally of reelectionist Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel Pacquiao.

He is seeking reelection as board member of the province’s second district under the Pacquiao-led People’s Champ Movement-United Nationalist Alliance slate.

The DILG order cited that the CA initially ruled on January 27, 2012 the dismissal of Alzate and several other former provincial officials and employees of Sarangani based on a decision dated September 21, 2004 issued by the Ombudsman.

The court granted the motion for consideration filed by Alzate based on its amended decision issued on August 30 last year, it said.

But the order noted that the appellate court ruled anew on the case last January, setting aside its previous amended decision and reinstating its original decision issued a year ago.

The DILG said Alzate could no longer question the Ombudsman’s decision since it is already final and executory and for supposedly failing to file an appeal.

Guiamadel said Alzate insisted during the serving of the DILG order that his camp had filed the necessary appeal or motion for reconsideration regarding the CA’s January resolution.

“I told (Alzate) that it will be up to him to make his defense or raise (the appropriate motion) regarding this order,” he said.

The official added that it’s now up to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Sarangani to enforce the DILG central office’s dismissal order.

In a text message posted in ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol Socksargen, Alzate said the issuance and serving of the dismissal order from the DILG as “pure political harassment.”

“We have filed a timely motion for reconsideration. Under the rules and jurisprudence, it will make the order held in abeyance pending the resolution of the motion,” he said.

“There is apparent deception here because (the order) did not include a copy of my motion for reconsideration and so it appeared as executory. We will fight this harassment. My lawyers are ready to file cases (against) the involved officials,” Alzate added.

The Office of the Ombudsman earlier ordered the dismissal from service of Alzate and several other Sarangani officials after finding them guilty of misusing the province’s funds in 2002.

Also dismissed were former Sarangani Gov. Miguel Escobar, the late Vice Gov. Felipe Constantino and board members Teodorico Diaz, Juanito Purisima, Redempto Abiso, Marlind Marcelo and Hernando Sibugan.

In late 2004, then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo filed graft charges at the Sandiganbayan against Escobar and his co-accused.

In August last year, the anti-graft court sentenced Escobar, former Provincial Treasurer Cesar Cagang and Management and Audit Analyst Vivencia Telesforo to a maximum of 18 years imprisonment after finding them guilty of conspiracy when they misused the P300,000 drawn from the Priority Development Assistance Fund of then Sarangani Rep. Erwin Chiongbian.

Aside from the three, the Sandigan court also convicted former provincial administrator Perla Maglinte, executive assistant III Amelia Carmela Constantino-Zoleta and Alzate on separate charges of estafa through falsification of public documents.

The three were also meted 10 to 11 years and four months in prison and fined P5,000 each.

All convicted were also ordered by the court to jointly indemnify the provincial government of Sarangani the amount of P300,000 corresponding to the sum they siphoned from Chiongbian’s PDAF.

Case records showed that the accused were found to have drawn a check for P300,000 on May 27, 2002 supposedly as financial assistance to the Malungon Market Vendors Association after the market was ravaged by fire.

Documents showed that the money was requested by “Nema Tamayo,” the supposed leader of the group, while the check was released to “Tita P. Sariño,” the alleged treasurer.

But both names later turned out fictitious based on an investigation conducted by a government special audit team. The fabrication was later upheld by prosecution witnesses Mary Ann Gadian and Sheryl Desiree Jane Tangan, who figured in the transactions as then employees of the provincial government.