Surigao City mayor faces graft raps

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/23 March) – City Mayor Ernesto T. Matugas has been indicted by the Ombudsman for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

According to the resolution issued by director for Mindanao of the Office of the Ombudsman Maria Iluminada S. Lapid-Viva and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Matugas violated the anti-graft law by hiring 14 consultants and contractual employees without the approval of the city council on July 18, 2011.

The complaint was filed by Matugas’s staunchest critics, Jamar Gavino and Rey Culbo and the late Bernardo Pecho.

MindaNews tried to get the mayor’s comment through his mobile phone but failed.

The complaint said the original contracts of the 14 consultants and employees and the renewal of the same did not have the required authority of the city council as mandated by Section 455 of the Local Government Code.

The complaint named the 14 consultants and 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; and special executive assistants Kim Jonas G. Orquillas Jr. and Emilda A. Retorta.

The eight-page resolution dated February 5, 2015 which was obtained by MindaNews last Saturday said Matugas committed the prohibited act of entering into service contracts with his co-respondents without prior authority from the city council.

“Section 455(b) (1) (vii) in connection with Section 22 of R.A. No 7160 makes it a requirement that authorization of the Sangunian must first be secured before the chief executive officer concerned can enter into contracts in behalf of the local government unit,” it said

The Ombudsman also said Matugas “caused undue injury to the government in the consideration stated in such contracts or an aggregate amount of 1.2 million”.

In his counter-affidavit dated August 24, 2011, Matugas insisted that the service contracts did not require the authority of the city council, arguing that the contracts contemplated in R.A. 7160 involve infrastructure project, sale of properties, lease, loans, and similar transactions and that there was neither under injury to the city government, nor was there unwarranted benefits given to the co-respondents.

The anti-graft court dismissed the case against the 14 co-respondents citing lack of probable cause in the existence of conspiracy.

“Respondent Matugas, nevertheless, is reminded that public office is a public trust, and he must at all times be accountable to the people. He is not above the law, and does not have a license to disregard the requirement set forth therein,” the Ombudsman resolution reads.

“Wherefore, finding probable cause to indict respondent Ernesto T. Matugas for violation of Section 3 (e) of R.A. No 3019, let the enclosed information be filed before the appropriate court,” the resolution reads. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)