Not just a whiff of corruption

“What do we do about this case?”

What did President Rodrigo Duterte say about corruption in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July? He stressed that it “is just another term for stealing people’s money, wiping out, in its wake, the goals and aspirations of a nation,” and called on anti-corruption agencies, such that the Office of the Ombudsman and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), to strike hard and with tweezers those who are involved in brazen embezzlement of public funds. Not to forget, Duterte had repeatedly stressed that he would not tolerate even a “whiff of corruption” and that he would galvanize the entire government apparatus to send criminals to jail. It appears, however, that some officials are simply lucky – or perhaps mastered the art of playing hide and seek with the law – that they have managed to hold onto their positions despite serious allegations of wrongdoing. Take the case, for example, of Madelaine Alfelor, mayor of the city of Iriga, who is the subject of corruption complaints against her for at least 16 alleged anomalies. Most of the complaints against Alfelor concern anomalies in the distribution of ayuda or cash grants to unqualified beneficiaries under the national government’s Social Improvement Program (SAP). These were filed with the Office of the Ombudsman. In addition to the apparently abnormal distribution of SAP cash aid, there is an administrative complaint against Alfelor before the same agency for obtaining a 275 million peso loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) for build an amusement park with a huge Ferris wheel. . This at a time when mobility restrictions continue to be imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our source tells us that the mayor of the city ignored two resolutions of Sangguniang Panlalawigan against this dubious initiative and proceeded to obtain a bank loan to finance the project. Critics have claimed that project funds could have been better used for the city’s COVID-19 medical response. Or perhaps to provide financial assistance to legitimate households and businesses affected by the pandemic that are in desperate need of government support. There are also criminal and administrative complaints against the city official before the ombudsman for embezzlement and corruption involving 32.84 million pesos in unliquidated cash advances, and another round of complaints involving 27.89 million pesos. . But wait, there is more. There is also a complaint against her for undocumented procurement transactions totaling 17.25 million pesos, and another involving 14.19 million pesos in allegedly unjustified / undocumented advances to contractors. The ombudsman also received a complaint against her and several other interviewees for allegedly purchasing 13.51 million pesos of seedlings without tendering. The mayor of the city was also accused in a complaint of embezzlement and corruption for having released scholarship funds in the amount of 2.78 million pesos to a single beneficiary. The other complaints against Alfelor involve entering into a memorandum of understanding (MOA) with a national basketball league in which she requires the city to pay a participation fee of P 800,000 and a deposit of P 50,000 to without the knowledge and without the consent of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of the city of Iriga; the non-release of 6.48 million pesos each to two barangays for their legitimate share of the property tax; illegal appointments and compensation for unqualified personnel; and an invalid expropriation case. The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) has also filed criminal and administrative complaints against her and other defendants before the Office of the Ombudsman for violations of the Anti- corruption and corrupt practices and the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 1) for the disbursement of SAP cash grants to disqualified beneficiaries. At a hearing last year by the House Committee on Good Government, which was then chaired by Representative Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, at least three whistleblowers admitted to lawmakers that it was the mayor herself who had distributed the cash grant (P 5,000) to each of them, one of them even telling the committee that the mayor had told him that it was a “secret” grant. Camsur residents say the extent of corruption at Iriga Town Hall has reached such intolerable levels that even those close to the mayor have filed separate complaints against it. The plaintiff in the embezzlement case for the undocumented disbursement of 14.188 million pesos of public funds was filed in May 2019 before the ombudsman’s office was a cousin of the mayor. Another cousin also lodged a complaint with the mediator against the mayor for violating the anti-graft law and corrupt practices for the purchase of seeds and plants worth 13.5 million pesos without appeal. offers. In the midst of all this, the question must be asked: Can the people of Camsur expect action from the Ombudsman’s Office, PACC and the Home Office and Local Government on this issue since no less than has President Duterte made the war on corruption a central program of his administration?

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