• House panel eyes graft raps vs Imee Marcos

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    A COMMITTEE at the House of Representatives will recommend the filing of graft and other related charges against Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos for her alleged misuse of the P66 million worth of tobacco funds.

    Rep. Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur, chairman of the committee on good government and public accountability, issued the statement on Friday after three congressional hearings on the P66 million tobacco fund allegedly used by the Ilocos Norte provincial government to to purchase motor vehicles without public bidding—all of which were snubbed by Marcos.

    Pimentel cited that in purchasing the motor vehicles using tobacco funds without public bidding, Marcos violated the Act to Promote the Development of the Farmer in the Virginia Tobacco Producing Provinces or Republic Act 7171 and COA Memorandum 97-002, among other anti-graft laws.

    Under Republic Act 7171, tobacco funds should only be spent on: cooperative projects that will enhance better quality of products, increase productivity, guarantee the market and as a whole increase farmer’s income; livelihood projects particularly the development of alternative farming systems to enhance farmers income; agro-industrial projects that will enable tobacco farmers in the tobacco producing provinces to be involved in the management and subsequent ownership of these projects such as post-harvest and secondary processing like cigarette manufacturing and by-product utilization; and infrastructure projects such as farm-to-market roads.

    COA Memorandum 97-002, on the other hand, does not allow cash advances to purchase motor vehicles since its use was limited only to operating expenses, payroll, as well as dues from national government agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations, local government units, non-government organizations/people’s organizations, central office, regional offices, national government agencies and operating units.

    “It is clear that you can’t use cash advances when purchasing motor vehicles, but they spent P66 million for such. She can be prosecuted for graft before the Office of the Ombudsman,” Pimentel said in a chance interview.

    “This could even go as high as plunder because the amount is at P66 million,” Pimentel added.

    Under the law, plunder is committed when “a public officer who, by himself or in connivance with members of his family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates, subordinates or other persons, amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt or criminal acts in the aggregate amount or total value of at least P50 million.”

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