Governor cries extortion on cases filed vs him
Camarines Sur Gov. Luis Raymond “LRay” Villafuerte on Thursday revealed what he said was an attempt to extort money from him by a former provincial board member who has filed a string of graft cases against him at the Ombudsman.
Villafuerte, who went to the Inquirer yesterday, said Carlo Batalla, former board member and complainant in the graft cases against him, offered to drop the cases that he filed against the governor in exchange for “millions of pesos.”
Batalla recently filed a complaint of malversation of public funds at the Ombudsman against the governor, claiming that Villafuerte approved the provincial government’s purchase of P20 million worth of fuel in 2010 from Petron Fuel Express, which was left undelivered.
2009 Naga meeting
According to Villafuerte, sometime in 2009, Batalla met with his then budget officer Fortunato Peña, now incumbent vice governor of Camarines Sur, and cousin Nonoy Magtoto, in a restaurant in Naga City and asked money in exchange for Batalla dropping the charges against the governor.
“He was asking money per case,” Villafuerte said. “It was clearly extortion.”
According to documents shown by Villafuerte to the Inquirer, most of the 10 cases filed against Villafuerte in the Ombudsman were all filed by Batalla. As of July 2011, seven have already been dismissed for lack of merit.
The cases include accusations of violations of the Anti-Graft And Corrupt Practices Act in relation to financial assistance extended to Brgy. Anib and unremitted collections worth more than P600,000 from the operations of the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex, among others.
The cases include accusations that Camarines Sur incurred a P168 million cash overdraft in 2009; cash advances to officers and employees amounting to P24 million remained unliquidated at yearend; and the province spending P132 million in donations for social programs without approved designs and established criteria.
“I did not pay him money because I thought that his charges had no ground and that they were weak. Plus, if I paid him, a lot of people might start falsifying cases against me,” Villafuerte added.
“We are studying it and it seems that what he is doing is malicious prosecution or perjury,” he said.
“Batalla claims to be an anticorruption crusader but it seems that he is just pursuing me,” Villafuerte added.
The governor came to the Inquirer office to “air his side and clear any misinformation” regarding the cases against him.
“It’s very easy to accuse but the accusations about me were never proven and I have never been charged with anything,” Villafuerte said.
The governor also reacted to reports about his alleged bad governance, citing accomplishments of the province.
“We are the No. 1 tourist destination in the Philippines, and one of the country’s highest producers of rice despite the typhoons. How can that be a result of bad management?,” he said.
Villafuerte also voiced his theory that Camarines Sur Rep. Fuentebella Arnulfo might be behind what he said was a “well funded” demolition job against him.
“Why is Batalla resurfacing now? He’s being used by Congressman Fuentebella,” he said.
Fuentebella is the author of House Bill No. 4728, which seeks to divide Camarines Sur and carve a new province out of the fourth and fifth congressional districts, which will be called “Nueva Camarines.” With a report from Leila B. Salaverria
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