Cerilles couple charged with plunder by staffBy Cynthia D. Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Six former and current members of the staff of Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Aurora Cerilles and her husband, provincial Gov. Antonio Cerilles, have charged the couple with plunder, malversation and falsification in the Office of the Ombudsman.
The complainants were Raul Molina and Tyrone Singgo, two former chiefs of staff of Aurora Cerilles; and for Antonio Cerilles, Pedro Ramirez Jr., current Zamboanga del Sur OIC provincial treasurer; Bernadette Ordoñez, acting provincial accountant; Rogelio Montealto, provincial budget officer, and Mustapha Piang, former executive assistant of the provincial government for Muslim affairs.
In their complaint, they accused the Cerilles couple of spending public funds for their “personal and private use and sought their preventive suspension from office while the case is being investigated.
“As trusted staff and confidants, we were directed to perform various tasks for the Cerilles couple, including personal ones, and often worked beyond regular working hours and days,” Molina and Singgo said in their joint complaint dated Jan. 24.
Governor Cerilles, however, dismissed the accusations as part of the widescale political attacks against him and his family.
“Malakas ang mga galamay ng mga taong (They are powerful, those) responsible for this and they timed it during the political season,” Cerilles told the Inquirer by phone on Saturday afternoon.
Cerilles cited three motives of the complainants. He said they wanted to cover up the Aman case which is gaining ground against Mayor Samuel Co. Secondly, the Jalosjoses wanted to level the playing field after Dominador Jalosjos was delisted by the Comelec due to a criminal case, and thirdly, those who filed the plunder charges were being investigated by the Commission on Audit.
The complainants said they were forced to file a case after learning in 2011 that they were on the hit list of the Provincial Special Operations Group (PSOG), which they claimed was notorious for the extrajudicial killing of political and personal enemies of the Cerilles couple.
Governor Cerilles, however, denied threatening those behind the plunder charges.
Both Molina and Singgo alleged that provincial funds were spent and equipment was used for the private and personal benefit of the couple. They submitted voluminous documents to prove their claims.
These included the renovation of the Cerilles-owned Hotel Alindahaw; the purchase of office supplies and equipment for the Philippine Para-Medical and Technical School, a private school allegedly owned by the Cerilleses; public funds and equipment for their fishpond in Pitogo; home supplies, including a water dispenser, kitchen utensils and grocery items; hardware materials for the renovation of the Cerilleses’ warehouse in Lebangan, and public funds for campaign materials and office supplies of the party headquarters of the couple during the 2007 elections.
The complainants further alleged that the couple operated the “suertes” illegal numbers game which was managed by provincial employees.
P30-M withdrawal alleged
Ramirez, meanwhile, claimed the couple used the intelligence and trust funds of the province for their personal use and for election purposes.
He said that a month before the May 2010 elections, then Gov. Aurora Cerilles withdrew P30 million in one week “with instructions that the money be in denominations of P100 and P500.”
Montealto and Piang, who were both ambushed, blamed the couple for the attacks.
In July 2012, the Ombudsman filed graft charges against Aurora Cerilles in the Sandiganbayan for overpriced medical supplies bought in 2001 for P7 million. The COA found that the medical supplies were procured solely from U-Net Distributors Corp.
Turning the tables on his accusers, Cerilles said Ramirez was under investigation for using government trust fund and IRA fund services. He said this was the reason all the financial benefits and salaries of Ramirez were placed on hold.
He also said he placed Montealto and Ordoñez on floating status because of some anomalous transactions.
Cerilles said Molina bought two brand new cars in Cagayan de Oro City while working for his wife but resigned when she called for a lifestyle check. With a report from Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao