FORMER governors of Ilocos Sur province Luis “Chavit” Singson and Deogracias Savellano will be facing the music after the Office of the Ombudsman ordered them slapped with graft charges for handing out P26 million of financial assistance to a non-government organization (NGO) which happened to be a private company.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved on Thursday that Singson be charged with three counts of graft and Savellano with two counts over P26.06 million in dole-outs to Multi-Line Food Processing International, Inc. during the two former governors’ terms.
Records show that Singson entered into four memoranda of agreement with Multi-Line between February and June 2001 for financial assistance tranches of P9.18 million, P4 million, P3 million, and P8 million.
The multimillion dole-outs were purportedly used “to fund unspecified livelihood projects.”
Four checks were issued between April and July 2001, three of which was ordered released by Singson and the fourth one by Savellano, when he assumed office in the 2001 mid-term elections.
Savellano entered once more in a memorandum with Multi-Line on December 27, 2001 for the grant of financial assistance worth P1.88 million 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.
The Ombudsman said that Multi-Line was not qualified to receive financial aid from government.
Multi-Line cannot be considered an NGO because its articles of incorporation showed that it is a private corporation organized for profit and not intended to advance the interest of a specific cause or sector, the Ombudsman said.
Too, Multi-Line projects were neither inspected nor audit before the fund releases were made.
Documents also showed that “the funds were to be used in maintaining the operation of the plant—from the payment of its utilities and supplies down 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.
Interestingly, the Ombudsman discovered that barely four months after 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 management without the necessary funding from the provincial government,” noted Multi-Line’s termination letters to its employees.
Meanwhile, the complaint against 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.