What happened to ‘ghost’ aid?

October 14, 2018
Martin Diño

Diño, VACC to Ombudsman: Investigate ‘ghost delivery’ of relief goods in Isabela.

THE Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), through Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Martin Diño, on Friday urged Ombudsman Samuel Martires to reopen an investigation into a case involving the "ghost delivery" of relief goods in Isabela, a case that was "parked" by Martires' predecessor for over three years.

Diño explained that on January 23, 2015, the VACC filed a case at the Office of the Ombudsman against Isabela Governor Faustino G. Dy III, Rep. Catalina Leonen-Pizarro (ABS Party-list), Rep. Michael Angelo Rivera (1-CARE Party-list), and other government officers of the Province of Isabela for malversation of public funds through falsification of public documents and for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Practices Act.

Diño narrated that in 2013 Rep. Catalina Leonen-Pizarro of ABS Party-list and Rep. Michael Angelo Rivera of 1-CARE Party-list allocated 15 million and 10 million pesos of their PDAF, respectively, to the Provincial Government of Isabela.

"The funds were intended for social services, particularly for the purchase of relief goods (rice, canned goods, etc.) for distribution to the various victims of calamities in all the municipalities in the Province of Isabela," said Diño.

"To document the purported transactions, the Provincial government, without public bidding, purportedly purchased from Sanitary Mart Corporation 10 million pesos' worth of canned and other goods, and from Jimmy Pua Enterprises, Inc., 15 million pesos' worth of rice," added the former VACC head.

The rice and canned goods amounting to 25 million pesos were then purportedly delivered to and received by the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer (MSWDO) of the different municipalities of the Province of Isabela for distribution to the typhoon victims in 2013.

According to Diño, however "there was never a purchase or delivery of the rice and goods.  The documents of the purchase and acceptance were all falsified to make it appear that there was indeed purchase and delivery."

Diño said the VACC was able to obtain evidence that the signatures of the MSWDO in the RIS and Acceptance slip were all forged to make it appear that the MSWDO had requested and accepted the rice and goods.  They also discovered that the payment by the Provincial Government for the procurement of the rice and goods were not made to the purported suppliers but to an individual named Mr. Allan Ty, a violation of government procurement laws.

When the NBI conducted its investigation, said Diño, the perpetrators covered up the crime by making Ty reimburse the Provincial Government. The 25 million pesos was returned to the Treasury of the Provincial government in order to show that the fund was still intact.

Diño said the return of the funds does not get Gov. Dy and his cohorts off the hook.

Quoting the Supreme Court case Kimpo v. Sandiganbayan, Diño said that "in malversation of public funds, payment, indemnification, or reimbursement of funds misappropriated, after the commission of the crime, does not extinguish the criminal liability of the offender, which, at most can merely affect the accused’s civil liability thereunder and be considered mitigating circumstance being analogous to voluntary surrender.”

"For over three years, the Ombudsman has slept on the case, despite the submission by the complainant of overwhelming testamentary and documentary evidence. Worse, without requiring the respondents tofile counter affidavits nor submit contrary evidence, the FIB-Ombudsman closed and terminated the investigation," lamented Diño.

"In our quest to curb corruption in government, we therefore request the immediate and impartial reinvestigation of the case as a matter of course.  I believe that on the watch of the Honorable Samuel R. Martires as the new Ombudsman, the occurrence of the 'parking' method of investigation will be finally put to a stop."