Suspended Vice Governor Dionisio Balite was baffled by the Ombudsman decision suspending six members of the 2006 Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) for passing a resolution authorizing the late Governor Erico Aumentado to open a letter of credit (LC) as a mode of payment for the purchase of heavy equipment.
“I couldn’t fathom the rationale behind the Ombudsman ruling suspending only six members when it was a unanimous vote of the 14 members of the 2006 SP”, according to Balite.
The Ombudsman ordered the six-month suspension without pay of Balite, Maribojoc Vice Mayor Jose Veloso and Loay Vice Mayor Brigido Imboy for passing a resolution in 2006 authorizing the late Governor Erico Aumentado to open a letter of credit (LC) for the purchase of a backhoe despite an existing memorandum prohibiting the use of an LC as a mode of payment for procurement.
SELECTIVE SUSPENSION AND FINES
Balite also was bewildered over their nine-month suspension without pay while those who are now separated from the service were fined equivalent to only six months of their salary payable to the Office of the Ombudsman.
The members of the 2006 SP were Board Members Jose Veloso, Eufrasio Mascarinas and Felix Uy representing the 1st District, Amalia Tirol, Felix Garcia and Ma. Fe Camacho-Lejos of the 2nd District and Dionisio Balite, Concepcion Lim, Ester Galbreath and Godofreda Tirol of the 3rd District.
Even the then SP Presiding Officer, former Vice Governor Julius Caesar Herrera should have been meted a fine for his role in the approval of the authority to Aumentado to use an LC to pay for the purchase of a backhoe with breaker, according to Balite.
The then ex-officio members of the SP were now Loay Vice Mayor Brigido Imboy representing the Philippine Councilors League (PCL), Bohol Chapter, Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) President Romulo Cepedoza, an incumbent Board Member as ABC president and Sangguniang Kabataan President Frances Bobeth Cajes-Auza.
The Ombudsman decision named A. Tirol, Galbreath, Camacho-Lejos and Cajes-Auza as among those who approved the assailed resolution but were spared by the suspension decision.
However, the names of Cepedoza, Garcia and Mascarinas did not appear as respondents in the complaint filed by the Field Investigation Office of the Ombudsman.
As alleged by Balite, the 2006 SP members “unanimously” passed Resolution No. 2006-387 authorizing Aumentado to open an LC with the Philippine National Bank (PNB),Cebu Branch in the amount of PhP9,410,560.00 including incidental expenses for the opening and negotiation charges amounting to PhP74,498.15.
The use of an LC as a mode of payment was prohibited by a Memorandum Order No. 119 series of 2003 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as a mode of payment to any local and foreign suppliers with respect to procurement.
In 2009, three SP members were ordered suspended by the Ombudsman Alfonso Damalerio, Cesar Tomas Lopez, both from the 1st District and again Imboy who was then a regular SP member.
Damalerio is the Provincial Administrator while Lopez is the Executive Assistant for Health.
The rest of the 2009 SP members were Jose Veloso of the 1st district, Amalia Tirol, Josephine Jumamoy and Ma. Fe Camacho-Lejos of the 2nd District and Bienvenido Molina, Josil Trabajo, Ester Galbreath and Aster Piollo of the 3rd District.
Jane Censoria Cajes-Yap sat as ex-officio SP member representing the SK as their chairperson.
The Ombudsman decision stated that aside from Damalerio, Lopez and Imboy, SP members A. Tirol, Galbreath, Camacho-Lejos, Trabajo, Apalisok-Piollo and Cajes-Yap passed Resolution No. 2009-226 authorizing Aumentado to open an LC for the purchase of 26 units of heavy equipment.
This time, the use of LC was allowed provided that the cost for the opening of the LC shall be for the account of the local or foreign supplier.
Only Damalerio and Lopez were meted the nine-month suspension without pay.
Former Provincial Legal Officer Handel Lagunay downplayed the suspensions as w purely a “procedural matter” and not irregularities relating to overprice or anomalies in the purchase of heavy equipment by the Provincial Government of Bohol (PGB).
But Lagunay said that an amendment was signed by Arroyo a month after the SP resolution was passed that allowed the use of LC’s in favor of a local supplier.
As a standard banking practice, the use of LC’s has been recommended by the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) to Arroyo.
According to Lagunay, the amended memorandum allowing the use of LC’s as a mode of payment should be applied in a retroactive manner by the Ombudsman since this is beneficial to the respondents.
Balite was replaced by 1st District Board Member Venzencio Arcamo as acting vice governor following the succession provisions of the Local Government Code while Maribojoc 1st councilor Abraw Arocha will sit as acting vice mayor and Atty. Lahar Ayuban as Loay vice mayor temporarily replacing Veloso and Imboy respectively.
Provincial Administrator Alfonso Damalerio will be replaced by Provincial Legal Officer Atty. John Mitchell Boiser. (Chito M. Visarra)