Isabela town vice mayor suspended over P25-M malversation case

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has ordered the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to implement the 90-day suspension of incumbent Roxas, Isabela Vice Mayor Servando Soriano, the Ombudsman said on Tuesday, September 27.

In a resolution dated September 2, the Sandiganbayan sustained the motion filed by Ombudsman prosecutors citing the mandatory suspension of an official under investigation, in accordance with Section 13 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Soriano is facing charges for allegedly violating section 3(e) of RA 3019 and Malversation of Public Funds in connection with the "unlawful" P25-million grant made by the provincial government of Isabela to the Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation, Inc. (EDWINLFI) in 2006.

Section 13 of RA 3019 mandates the suspension of any incumbent official facing pending criminal cases in court for offenses involving fraud upon government or public funds or property.

Soriano was reported to have concurrently served as director of EDWINLFI, a non-government organization tapped to manage a credit facility for Isabela’s rice farmers under a hybrid seed distribution program.

The Ombudsman questioned the failure to conduct a public bidding when the transaction was in the nature of a management or consultancy contract. They noted the absence of any provision for safeguards on the amount entrusted to the NGO.

The grant was made during the administration of former Isabela Governor Grace Padaca. The Ombudsman has already ordered the filing of charges against Padaca and 2 others.

Padaca was accused of giving undue advantage to EDWINLFI, which was entrusted the sum of P25 million – part of a loan drawn by the provincial government from the Development Bank of the Philippines.

In a report by the Commission on Audit, government auditors said EDWINLFI failed to liquidate P3.6 million listed under "due from NGOs/POs" and another P18 million listed under "loans receivables."

In May 2012, the Sandiganbayan issued an arrest warrant against Padaca on the same charges and set her bail bond at P40,000 for malversation and P30,000 for the graft case. –