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13 SBMA execs sued over ‘unaccounted assets’

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13 SBMA execs sued over ‘unaccounted assets’

Subic freeport administrator calls act ‘desperate move’ by chair to retain post
/ 05:49 AM July 22, 2017
Martin Diño

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chair Martin Diño leads the distribution of rice to some 200 workers inside the Subic Bay Freeport. —ALLAN MACATUNO

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Martin Diño, chair of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), on Wednesday charged 13 officials with malversation, grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and grave abuse of authority in the Office of the Ombudsman over “unaccounted assets” and lapses in disbursement transactions.

Diño filed complaints against Deputy Administrator for Administration Ruel John Kabigting; Deputy Administrator for Finance Antonietta Sangui; Ecology Center manager and regulatory group head Amethya de la Llana-Koval; financial planning and budget department manager Editha Marzal; and internal audit service department manager Joel Ea.

He also filed complaints against finance department head Myrna Caseja; procurement and property management department chief Rani Cruz; procurement division chief Josminia Torrenueva; financial planning and budget department manager Editha Marzal; land and asset development department manager Carlito Faustino; engineering department manager Gary Fernandez; building permit and safety department manager Joselito Bakuteza; and accounting department chief Emilia Canonizado.

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One of the complaints stemmed from an audit observation memorandum issued on Feb. 13 by the Commission on Audit (COA), which said that Canonizado “committed deficiencies/errors” in reporting the balance of the agency’s construction in progress amounting to more than P3 billion.

Another complaint involved the balances of several asset and liability accounts totaling P26.8 billion and P27.3 million, respectively, which have been dormant for more than five years, “casting doubt on their validity and reliability,” according to the memorandum.

A third complaint referred to a COA memorandum dated April 11 as the basis for charging Sanqui and Koval due to their alleged failure to fully implement and monitor compliance of environmental standards within the free port.

Diño said all those charged were accountable for their “blunder, whether willful or by gross negligence, or through the fault of their junior officers and employees.”

‘Desperate move’

But in a statement issued on Thursday, SBMA Administrator Wilma Eisma defended the executives and employees and described Diño’s complaints as a “[desperate] move” in a bid to retain his post.

According to Eisma, the respondents considered the charges as “just another attempt by the beleaguered official [Diño] to silence the growing clamor among both private and public sectors in Subic for him to leave the SBMA.”

She said anyone could file a complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman, which investigates and prosecutes government officials accused of crimes.

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“But why resort to that, when as SBMA chair he can order an investigation and settle this issue within the organization?” Eisma said.

Diño and Eisma have been at odds since May after the SBMA chair issued an administrative order creating an oversight task force under his office that Eisma said had encroached upon her power and duties as SBMA administrator. —ALLAN MACATUNO

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