PHILIPPINE Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Tuesday orders the prosecution before the Sandiganbayan of former Metro Manila Development Authority chief, now Marikina City Rep. Bayani Fernando and five other persons for graft.
The prosecution order was issued after Ombudsman investigators found probable cause to file 13 Informations for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) against Fernando, MMDA Assistant General Manager Edenison Fainsan, Director Leonila Querijero, Consultant Rolando Josef, Chief Revenue Officer Cleofe Ablog and former MMDA General Manager Robert Nacianceno. The violations are in connection with the alleged anomalous utilization of the multi-million peso Metro Manila Film Festival funds.
Aside from filing the graft charges, Ombudsman Morales dismissed Fainsan and Querijero from government service. They were also meted the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, forfeiture of retirement benefits and cancellation of eligibility with bar from taking the civil service examination.
However, in case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondents’ one year salary, she adds.
Ombudsman records show that a special audit conducted by the Commission on Audit (COA) resulted in the issuance of several Notices of Disallowance regarding the following disbursements from 2003 until 2009 — P1.6million as birthday cash gift to Fernando, P11.8million as expenses for cultural projects and P10.8million in cash incentives granted to the chairman and members of the Executive Committee.
The COA, according to the Ombudsman, noted irregularities in the MMFF fund disbursements such as lack of official receipts issued by the LGUs to prove receipt of funds granted for cultural projects; absence of duly approved payrolls for the cash incentives; and issuance of the checks for cash incentives in the name of Ablog and on a pay-to-cash basis.
Ombudsman Morales says “respondents’ conspiratorial act of authorizing and approving the irregular payments and expenditures depleted the funds of the MMFF thereby causing it undue injury.”
She explains that under Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, public officials are prohibited from causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.
Fernando served as MMDA chairman from June 2002 to December 2009. He was also the mayor of Marikina City from 1992 to 2001.
A former reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Standard Today, and a regular columnist of the Metro Manila based daily tabloid newspaper Hataw; Nelson Flores is also the former Senior Associate Editor of the Houston based Fil-Am Press and former anchor of dzXL and dzRJ's weekend talk show Usaping Bayan.
Mr. Flores has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Law degrees from the University of Santo Tomas and Adamson University and a holder of a study certificate from the Diocesan House of Studies, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI). He is a Freemason and member of Reagan Lodge 1037 in Houston Heights under the jurisdiction of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Texas and a member of the Missionary Society of Christ the King (MSCK).
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