MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The governor at the center of the Kidapawan controversy faces corruption charges for using government funds to buy diesel worth P2.4 million from a gasoline station owned by her mother.
In a statement Friday, April 8, the Office of the Ombudsman said it has found probable cause to charge North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño Mendoza with 3 counts of violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices law. The case will be filed before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
Mendoza approved the release of P2.4 million from provincial coffers to pay for 49,526.72 liters of fuel used during a two-day road repair project, the Ombudsman said. She did not conduct any bidding and instead contracted the Taliño Shell Station, which is owned by her mother, the Ombudsman added.
In her initial response to the complaint, Taliño explained that it was only that station that was “willing to accommodate the credit term requested by the provincial government.”
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales dismissed this argument, saying “there was no compelling justification for dispensing with the requirement of public bidding.”
Mendoza is facing accusations she neglected farmers’ demand for food and aid in her drought-stricken province, prompting them to stage a protest that led to a violent dispersal last April 1. The Kidapawan dispersal is now the subject of separate investigations by the police, the Commission on Human Rights and the Senate.
Morales said that “the great disparity between the estimated 552 liters of diesel actually consumed for the two-day road maintenance project in Magpet vis-à-vis the 20,833 liters actually paid for, is proof that the fuel-purchase transaction is illegal and that this transaction is obviously a scheme to pocket government funds.”
Morales’ resolution added that “[respondent] made it appear that the diesel fuel was procured and used in a government project when in truth, only a small portion of the fuel was actually used and the rest was converted to cash for the benefit of those who were involved in the fraudulent transaction.”
In a statement, the lawyer of Mendoza said: “Contrary to what the Ombudsman is saying, the fuel was procured after it went through a form of bidding, allowed under the Government Procurement Act.”
Lawyer Vincent Montejo said the Ombudsman “ignored evidence that fuel was actually utilized for the province’s road projects.”
The governor is running for reelection in May 2016 under the ruling Liberal Party. – Rappler.com
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