09 August 2014

Graft charges filed vs former Olongapo mayor

Former Olongapo City Mayor James Gordon Jr. has been charged before the Ombudsman in connection with some P44 million worth of alleged illegal government transactions during his tenure as city chief executive.

The alleged illegal transactions included ghost deliveries and the unauthorized sale of several parcels of land owned by the city government.

Olongapo Mayor Rolen Paulino said he filed charges against Gordon based on findings by the Commission on Audit (COA) that ghost deliveries worth around P30 million were paid for with city funds in January to June 2013, the last semester of Gordon’s term.

Another case against Gordon was filed by City Administrator Mamerto Malabute on July 22, for the sale of government land worth P14 million to the Olongapo Electric Distribution Company (OEDC), a private company which took over the power-distribution system here after the city government incurred a P5.2-billion power debt under the Gordon administration.

Paulino said in a statement on Wednesday that the illegal transactions made under his predecessor’s watch bilked local taxpayers of millions of pesos.

“We are not talking about thousands of pesos here; we are talking about millions of pesos from taxpayers’ money,” the mayor said.

“The big question is, where did the money go?” Paulino added.

In the first case, Paulino cited findings that supplies and materials totaling P19,407,658.40 and P11,321,232.80, respectively, were supposedly procured under various purchase orders (POs) that were charged against the Public Utilities Department fund and the 10-percent proceeds from the sale of city shares in the Subic Water and Sewerage Co. Among the supposed purchases made were those for office supplies, cleaning materials, plastic chairs, food and other items.

However, the COA said these purchases “were not supported by certificate of inspection and acceptance and not received by the end user, thereby providing no proofs on the veracity of the delivery.”

The COA findings were backed up by a “certification of no record” issued by the current head of the city’s General Services Office (GSO), Merlito J. Majarucon.

Paulino said that on the basis of these findings, cases had similarly been filed against former GSO Head Victor S. Bernabe and City Accountant Dennis Martinez.

City Hall sources said Bernabe is now on a “floating status” in the city government, while Martinez had been dismissed earlier by the Ombudsman for another case.

In the second case filed before the Ombudsman, Gordon allegedly sold four parcels of government land to the power firm OEDC, but without express authority from the city council.

The alleged illegal sale involved a 2,133-square meter lot with improvements in Barangay Mabayuan, which was sold for P3,424,000; a 2,122-sq-m property with improvements in Barangay Kalaklan, which fetched P6,624,800; a 1,360-sq-m lot at Transco Compound in Kalaklan at P2,584,000; and a 300-sq-m property along the national highway in Barangay Old Cabalan, which was sold for P1,311,000.

Paulino, who was vice mayor at that time, said the transaction was illegal because the city council did not allow the sale of said properties.

“The sale was executed six days before I assumed office as the new mayor, but the Treasury Department did not receive the amount of P14 million, which was supposed to be the value of the lots,” Paulino added.

Among those charged with Gordon on the alleged illegal land sale were Beth Marzan, former head of the city budget office, who was reportedly dismissed by the Civil Service Commission last October; and lawyer Bernardine S. Gantan, the former city legal officer. (Henry EmpeƱo, BusinessMirror)