A party-list lawmaker on Thursday asked Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos to shed light on the alleged fraudulent use of P66.45 million in public funds representing the province’s share of excise tax collections from locally-manufactured Virginia- type cigarettes.
1-PACMAN party-list Rep. Enrico Pineda said Marcos’ signatures were on most of the documents pertaining to the cash advances made to procure five secondhand buses, 70 minitrucks and 40 multicabs—from the purchase requests to the obligation requests for the funds and even the disbursement vouchers.
“Only Gov. Imee Marcos can solve the mystery behind the documents that have all gone missing after such irregular purchases were uncovered,” Pineda said. “Her stamp of approval were in almost all of the documents related to these questionable transactions, so who else can best explain the paper trail behind them?”
“Hence the need for her to appear before the House committee investigating this apparent fund anomaly on her watch at the Ilocos Norte provincial government,” Pineda said.
COA officials who have testified at the hearings conducted by the House committee on good government and public accountability on the alleged irregular purchase of the vehicles said the use of cash advances in government procurement violates provisions of COA Circular 92-382.
The COA circular provides that regular cash advances are allowed only for salaries and wages, commutable allowances, honoraria and other similar payments to officials and employees, petty operating expenses.
The circular also states special cash advances are allowed only on the explicit authority of the local government chief executive for confidential expenses and expenditures for the activities undertaken in the field when it is impractical to pay checks.
Under Republic Act 7171, Pineda said the proceeds from excise taxes from locally produced Virginia-type cigarettes given to Virginia tobacco-producing provinces should be used only for cooperative, agro-industrial, livelihood or infrastructure projects for the benefit of farmers, which appears not to be the case when Marcos diverted these funds to procure vehicles for her pet projects.
He said the blatant violations of the law and COA rules on the purchase of the vehicles was apparently the reason the six Ilocos Norte provincial government employees cited in contempt by the House committee have chosen to keep silent even if they knew fully well that they would be penalized and indefinitely detained at the Batasan Pambansa complex.
“These provincial officials and employees who have surprisingly been afflicted with collective amnesia are obviously covering up for something that could land them in jail that they have chosen to be cited in contempt and be detained rather than tell the truth behind these questionable transactions,” Pineda said.
The Ilocos Six currently detained at the Batasan complex are Josephine Calajate, Ilocos Norte’s provincial treasurer; Encarnacion Gaor and Genedine Jambaro, both working at the Provincial Treasurer’s Office; Evangeline Tabulog, the provincial budget officer; Eden Battulayan, OIC-accountant; and Pedro Agcaoili, the chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee and the Provincial Planning and Development Office.
The employees were all involved in processing the disbursement vouchers and other documents for the cash advances, which they all insisted were no longer in their custody.
All of them also told the committee that they cannot remember details of the transactions unless they are shown copies of the originals even though they themselves were aware of the disappearance of the documents.