MANILA, Philippines—Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the filing of graft charges against former Ilocos Sur Governors Luis “Chavit” Singson and Deogracias Victor Savellano for illegally diverting more than P26 million from the province’s share of the tobacco tax to a preferred private company.
Morales approved on July 3 a 31-page resolution indicting Singson for three counts and Savellano for two counts of graft for a series of fund releases in 2001 to Multi-Line Food Processing International Inc. purportedly for livelihood projects.
The company closed down four months after getting the last check from Savellano.
Singson, who served as Ilocos Sur governor from 1998 to 2001, forged four deals between February and June 2001 worth a combined P24.18 million with Multi-Line Food to bankroll the company’s unspecified livelihood projects.
Savellano, Singson’s successor who served up to 2003, entered into a similar agreement with Multi-Line Food in December 2001 for the grant of P1,880,500 in financial assistance.
The allocations, totaling P26,060,500, were obtained from Ilocos Sur’s share of the excise tax on tobacco.
Morales ruled that Singson and Savellano “acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence when they repeatedly entered into [the agreements) and approved the successive release of public funds that gave unwarranted benefits to [Multi-Line Food], which was not qualified to receive such financial aid from (the) government and whose purported projects were not subjected to the required inspection or audit before the subsequent [agreements] and fund releases were made.”
The Save Ilocos Sur Alliance (Sisa) Foundation led by Estelita Cordero petitioned the Ombudsman to charge Singson and Savellano with violating the Commission on Audit (COA) Circular No. 95-003, which limits the grant of special assistance fund to nongovernmental organizations (NGO) and people’s organizations (PO).
“[Multi-Line Food] cannot be considered an NGO/PO as to warrant the grant of financial assistance from the government since [the company] appeared to be a private corporation organized for profit and not intended to advance the interest of a specific cause or sector, as shown by [Multi-Line Food’s] articles of incorporation. The funds were intended to be used in maintaining the operation of the plant—from the payment of its utilities and supplies down to the salary of its employees, which plainly signifies that [Multi-Line Food] was not in a stable financial condition to sustain its operations, let alone implement a socioeconomic or service-based project,” the Ombudsman said in a statement.
The Ombudsman noted that Multi-Line Food, despite getting cash infusions from Singson and Savellano, closed shop in April 2002 due to lack of funds, as shown in the termination letters to its employees.
No charges were ordered brought against Multi-Line Food’s directors—Arnulfo Abaya, Hernando Decena, Felipe Que, Danilo Etrata and Norman Mendoza—due to lack of evidence of a conspiracy.