GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – The mayor from Maguindanao who was convicted of graft by the Sandiganbayan last week was found guilty by the Office of the Ombudsman five years ago for misdeclaring his statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs) in 2009 and 2010.
The mayor, Umbra Dilangalen of Northern Kabuntalan town, Maguindanao, was sentenced to six- to a maximum seven-year prison term along with two of his subordinates on September 9 for fully paying a construction company for a still-unfinished water impounding project in the town in 2011.
But it wasn’t the first time someone blew the whistle on Dilangalen.
Records from the ombudsman showed that Dilangalen was ordered fined in May 2017 by then-ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who found him guilty of simple neglect of duty.
The fine was a mere slap of the hand – the equivalent of his one-month salary as town mayor.
The administrative penalty was imposed on Dilangalen because of the exclusion of several of his properties in his 2009 and 2010 SALNs.
Excluded from his 2009 SALN were the following:
- a house in Cotabato City acquired in 2000
- a house in Kabuntalan
- a parcel of land in Cotabato City
- two cars acquired in 2004 valued at P1 million
- liabilities representing loans obtained from the Government Insurance Service System and Land Bank of the Philippines
The ombudsman said Dilangalen did not include his Cotabato City house and agricultural property in his 2010 SALN.
In the 2017 ruling, Carpio-Morales said the omissions “became palpable when respondent declared the existence of the very same properties and liabilities in his SALN” in the succeeding year.
“The respondent’s failure to pay attention to the details of his SALN had resulted in the inaccuracy of crucial information therein, making him liable for Simple Neglect of Duty,” read part of the ombudsman decision.
Dilangalen has blamed his legal woes, including his recent conviction by the Sandiganbayan, on his political rivals.
He alleged that they were behind the complaint that was brought first to the attention of the ombudsman.
It was the ombudsman prosecutors who elevated the case to the Sandiganbayan in 2018 after they found him, municipal accountant Rahima Ali, and municipal treasurer Kabiba Mael liable for the violation of the anti-graft law.
The 5th Division of the Sandiganbayan subsequently ruled to declare the officials guilty of releasing a P5-million full payment to the contractor, FFJJ Construction, in late 2011, long before the project could be completed.
The anti-graft court noted that the payment was made just two days after the project contract in December 2011. The project was completed on March 12, 2012.
Dilangalen has downplayed his conviction, saying the Sandiganbayan decision showed that he and other local officials did not steal public funds.
He alleged that the charges were “politically motivated.”
He told radio station DXMS on Friday, September 16, that the case was merely a result of “an error in the procedure of paying the contractor,” a matter that, he asserted, was exploited by a political group that was out to discredit him.
Dilangalen pointed out that the project was finished after a year and, therefore, “there was no corruption.”
He maintained that the release of the funds to pay for the project in full was “done in good faith” and, supposedly, he was unaware that the act was against the anti-graft law.
At that time, Northern Kabuntalan was still a relatively new town and had yet to receive an Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) yet it managed to implement a P5-million water impounding project, he said.
Dilangalen said his lawyers were preparing to appeal the Sandiganbayan’s 24-page decision signed by associate justices Mary Ann Corpus-Mañalac, Rafael Lagos, and Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega. – Rappler.com