Twenty five PH coast guard officers to be charged with graft before the Sandiganbayan

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OMBUDSMAN Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the filing of multiple criminal charges against 25 Philippine Coast Guard officials due to their reported involvement in the P68 million irregular disbursements and procurement of office, hardware, construction supplies, information technology equipment and cellular phone cards in 2014.

To be indicted before the Sandiganbayan for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 (the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) are: ex-Commandant Rodolfo Isorena (25 counts); Commodores. William Melad and Aaron Reconquista; Rear Admiral Cecil Chen; Commanders John Esplana (16 counts), William Arquero (two counts), Jude Thaddeus Besinga (two counts), Roben De Guzman (two counts), Enrico Efren Evangelista, Jr., Ferdinand Panganiban, Joselito Quintas, Ivan Roldan (two counts), Rommel Supangan, George Ursabia, Jr., Ferdinand Velasco, Wilfred Burgos and Allen Dalangin; Captains Joeven Fabul (25 counts), Angelito Gil (two counts), Angel Lobaton IV, Christopher Villacorte and Ramon Lopez; Lieutenant Mark Larsen Mariano, Ensign Mark Franklin Lim II and Accounting Head Rogelio Caguioa (25 counts).

Aside from the graft charges, Isorena, Esplana, Fabul, Caguioa, Arquero, Lopez, and Quintas; are also facing multiple counts of violation of Section 65 of RA. 9184 (the Government Procurement Reform Act).

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ©

In an 83-page Consolidated Resolution signed by Morales last Monday, it was alleged that the investigating panel found that fraud was evident from the canvassing to the delivery of the items.

Among the irregularities it noted were the transactions pertaining to cellular cards in which Cdr Arquero was allowed a total budget of P930,300.00, Capt. Lopez and Cdr. Quintas were allowed a total of P4,239,710.00, and Cdr Supangan was allowed a total of P899,700.00.

The Panel also found that the respondents resorted to the nefarious practice of splitting the purchases into several transactions to avoid public bidding. The same practice of splitting was also found to be present with respect to disbursement of the P4M allotment for troops and organizational support and “Command and staff support.”
The purchases of regular office supplies, cleaning materials, hardware and groceries were thus split into P1 million purchases from February to May 2014.

In sum, the Office of the Ombudsman found that the respondents have acted in their individual official capacities with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, and gross inexcusable negligence in using public funds to purchase cell cards, hardware, office, construction, and IT supplies such as moleskine journals, artline fabric markers, pilot ballpens, Epson styluses, colored printer ink, wireless optical mouses, energizers, paints, screwdrivers, wireless routers, among other things, without public bidding.

“The above deficiencies should have prevented the disbursements or, at the very least, inspired caution considering the amounts involved and the frequency in which they were being requested. Still, the SCAs were approved and a total of P68,041,832.00 in public funds released,” Morales said.

“As the disbursements under process involved SCAs, it became incumbent upon respondents – especially VAdm. Isorena as the Head of the Agency – to ensure that the funds disbursed were utilized in accordance with law,” she added.

In the related administrative case, Morales dismissed the respondents from service and meted the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office after finding them liable for serious dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

She added that in the event that the penalty can no longer be enforced against the respondents due to their separation in service, the penalty shall be converted to a Fine equivalent to the respondent’s one-year salary.

Earlier in December 2016, the Office of the Ombudsman issued a preventive suspension against the respondents pending the investigation of the case.

Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 prohibits public officials 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.

On the other hand, Section 65 of R.A. No. 9184 provides that, without prejudice to the provisions of R.A. No. 3019 public officers who commit splitting of contracts which exceed procedural purchase limits shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of not less than six (6) years and one (1) day, but not more than fifteen (15) years.

Nelson Flores, J.D., MSCK
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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