FORMER Govs. Luis “Chavit” Singson and Deogracias Savellano of Ilocos Sur province are facing three and two counts of graft charges, respectively, before the Sandiganbayan on Monday for alleged disbursement of P26 million in financial assistance to a non-government organization (NGO) that turned out to be a private company.
The Office of the Ombudsman slapped the two former governors with graft when after the anti-graft agency upheld the sufficiency of evidence against them.
In the findings of prosecutor Gil Felix Hidalgo, both governors unlawfully released P26.06 million to Multi-Line Food Processing International Inc. during their respective terms.
In the Ombudsman resolution, findings showed that Singson entered into four memoranda of agreement with Multi-Line between February and June 2001 for the release of financial assistance amounting to P9.18 million, P4 million, P3 million, and P8 million.
The multimillion dole-outs were purportedly used “to fund un-specified livelihood projects.”
Four checks were issued between April and July 2001. Singson allegedly ordered the disbursement of three checks. The last one was from Savellano, after he won the 2001 mid-term elections.
During his term, Savellano entered another memorandum with Multi-Line on December 27, 2001 for the grant of P1.88-million financial assistance to fund “livelihood production and payment of accounts payable” for which a check was issued the following day.
The financial assistance was sourced from the province’s share of the proceeds of tobacco excise tax.
In Singson’s defense, he said that he had no personal interest in the disbursement of cash and only signed the vouchers with full trust on his underlings who evaluated the documents.
”The COA [Commission on Audit] did not declare the act of giving financial assistance as unlawful,” Singson added.
The Ombudsman pointed out that when Singson and Savellano “repeatedly entered” with a memorandum with Multi-Line and approved the “successive release of public funds” that favored the alleged bogus NGO, elements of graft have been present.
The Ombudsman said that Multi-Line was not qualified to receive financial aid from government.
For one, Multi-Line could not be an NGO because its Articles of Incorporation showed that it is a for-profit private company, the Ombudsman said.
Also, the projects of Multi-Line were not subjected to the required inspection or audit before the fund releases were made.
Even the funds were reported used to maintain the operation of the plant—from the payment of its utilities and supplies to the salary of its employees.
“[This] plainly signifies that [Multi-Line] was not in a stable financial condition to sustain its operations, let alone implement a socio-economic or service-based project” for the benefit of tobacco farmers, the Ombudsman resolved.
The anti-graft agency added that four months after discovered the last release of funds, Multi-Line shut down “due to lack of funds.”
“[The cessation of operation of Multi-Line resulted from] the incapacity of the Southern Ilocos Sur Federation of Tobacco-Based Cooperatives to sustain man-agement without the necessary funding from the provincial government,” noted Multi-Line’s termination letters to its employees.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales signed the five-piece charge sheets against the respondents on September 18.
A total of P90,000 has been recommended for Singson’s bail, while P60,000 for Savellano.
Private respondents Arnulfo Abaya, Hernando Decena, Felipe Que, Danilo Etrata and Norman Mendoza, members of Multi-Line’s board of directors, was dismissed for weak evidence.