"What’s being done about this case?"
What did President Rodrigo Duterte say about corruption in his last State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) in July?
He pointed out that it “is but another term for stealing people’s money, dashing, in its wake, a nation’s goals and aspirations,” and called on the anti-corruption agencies, such as the Office of the Ombudsman and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), to go hammer and tongs after those involved in brazen misappropriation of public funds.
Llest we forget, Duterte had time and again emphasized that he would not tolerate even a “whiff of corruption” and that he would galvanize the entire machinery of government to send malefactors to jail.
It appears, however, that some public officials are just plain lucky—or perhaps mastered the fine art of playing hide-and-seek with the law—that they have managed to hold on to their positions despite serious allegations of malfeasance.
Take the case, for instance, of Iriga City Mayor Madelaine Alfelor who faces graft complaints against her for at least 16 alleged anomalies.
Most of the complaints against Alfelor involve anomalies in the distribution of the ayuda or cash grants to unqualified recipients under the national government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP). These have been lodged before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Aside from the reportedly anomalous distribution of the SAP cash assistance, there is an administrative complaint against Alfelor before the same agency for obtaining a P275-million loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to build an amusement park with a humongous 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 city mayor has ignored two Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolutions against this questionable initiative and proceeded to obtain a bank loan to finance the project.
Critics have asserted that the project funds could have been better used for the city’s COVID-19 medical response. Or maybe to give financial assistance to legitimate pandemic-hit households and businesses in dire need of government support.
There are also criminal and administrative complaints against the city official before the Ombudsman for malversation and graft involving P32.84 million in unliquidated cash advances, and another set of complaints involving P27.89 million.
But wait, there’s more. There is also a complaint against her for undocumented procurement transactions totaling P17.25 million, and another one involving P14.19 million in allegedly unsupported/ undocumented advances to contractors.
The Ombudsman has also received a complaint against her and several other respondents for reportedly procuring P13.51 million-worth of seedlings without competitive bidding.
The city mayor has also been accused in a complaint of malversation and graft for releasing scholarship funds amounting to P2.78 million to only one beneficiary.
The other complaints against Alfelor involve entering into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with a national basketball league where she bound the city to pay an P800,000 participation fee and paid a P50,000 bond without the knowledge and consent of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Iriga City; the non-release of P6.48 million each to two barangays as their legitimate share in the real property tax; the unlawful appointments and compensation to 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 respondents before the Office of the Ombudsman for violations of the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 1) for disbursing SAP cash grants to disqualified beneficiaries.
At a hearing last year by the House committee on good government, which was then chaired by Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, at least three whistleblowers admitted to the lawmaker-probers that it was the mayor herself who had handed out the cash subsidy (P5,000) to each one of them, with one even telling the committee that the mayor had confided to her that it was a “secret” grant.
Camsur residents claim that the extent of corruption at the Iriga city hall has reached such intolerable levels that even the mayor’s relatives have filed separate graft complaints against her.
The complainant in the case for malversation for the undocumented disbursement of P14.188 million in public funds was filed in May 2019 before the Office of the Ombudsman was a cousin of the mayor.
Another cousin has also filed before the Ombudsman a complaint against the mayor for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for procuring P13.5 million-worth of seeds and seedlings without competitive bidding.
Amid all this, the question should be asked: Can Camsur folk expect action from the Office of the Ombudsman, PACC and the Department of Interior and Local Government on this matter since no less than President Duterte has made the war on corruption a centerpiece program of his administration?