Town money for piggery? Ex-mayor charged with graft
MANILA, Philippines – A former mayor in a rural town in Surigao del Sur province has been charged with graft for allegedly using municipal funds to construct a private piggery building.
In a press release Thursday, August 28, the Office of the Ombudsman said a resolution was issued approving the indictment of Cortes Mayor Pedro Trinidad Jr for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
"The use of public funds in constructing the piggery building represents loss to the government because it was built on a private land and the family of Trinidad benefited to the extent of the cost of the building,” the resolution read.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales denied Trinidad's bid for reconsideration intended to reverse her earlier finding of probable cause against him.
According to the Ombudsman's investigation, P385,000 ($8,803)* in government money were released using several disbursement vouchers to buy construction materials meant for a piggery building.
The land where the building was built is owned by the Trinidad family.
After the construction, specifically on December 4, 2009, a contract concerning the land was executed between the Trinidads and Cortes town.
But the Ombudsman resolved that the deed of donation was a “defective contract.” It resolved that the agreement between the government and the Trinidads only extends to the use of the land and not its ownership.
“When Trinidad Jr caused the disbursement of the funds of the municipality for this project in the land owned by him and siblings, he acted with evident bad faith, if not with gross inexcusable negligence and with manifest partiality,” the Ombudsman resolution further read.
“The construction of the piggery building was not purely beneficial to the Municipality since the Trinidad family could anytime take over the same,” it added.
Municipal accountant Leonidas Coniaberos will also be charged with graft for her involvement in issuing the disbursement vouchers.
Coniaberos also faces a 4-month suspension as administrative penalty.
Trinidad's administrative case was dismissed, however, given his re-election as mayor in the 2010 polls.
A legal principle known as the Aguinaldo doctrine effectively absolves an elected official of any administrative liability during his previous term if he gets re-elected to his post. The doctrine does not apply to criminal cases.
If found guilty of graft, Trinidad and Coniaberos would face a prison term as decided by the court. They will also be permanently disqualified from public office and be made to pay a fine equal to the unaccounted funds.
The Ombudsman has been criticized by court observers for clogging court dockets, going after small fish in government.
Investigating prosecutors say, however, that it is part of their duty to proceed in court even with cases against public officers involving small sums if there is probable cause. – Rappler.com
*$1 = P43.73
Image of caged pigs from Shutterstock