‘Ghost’ phones lead to raps vs Syjucos
ILOILO CITY, Philippines—The Office of the Ombudsman has filed criminal charges against Iloilo Representative Augusto Syjuco and his wife, former representative Judy Jalbuena-Syjuco, for the alleged ghost purchase of cell phones worth P6 million.
In a 21-page complaint dated April 4, the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office (FIO) charged the Syjucos and nine others with criminal and administrative offenses related to the purported acquisition of 1,582 cell phones worth P6,248,900 in December 2004.
In its complaint, the FIO said the two, who are staunch allies of former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, conspired to buy nonexistent cell phones and converted P5,964,859.09, the transaction cost net of taxes, “for their personal financial benefit at the expense of the government.”
Syjuco failed to respond to text messages of the Inquirer seeking his comment.
The FIO said the transaction to buy the cell phones was approved “in scandalous haste.” It said the cell phones, which were supposedly intended for constituents of then Representative Judy Jalbuena-Syjuco, were never purchased and delivered.
“The sad part of the entire transaction was that everything was only on paper … nothing more,” according to the FIO complaint. It was signed by FIO officials Rodolfo Dayrit, Roy Roque Dator and subscribed by Silverio Manuel Jr., acting director of the General Investigation Bureau of the Ombudsman.
The Syjuco couple was charged with “estafa,” falsification of public documents and violation of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act). Also charged was businessman Domingo Samuel Jonathan Ng, the purported supplier of the cell phones.
Also facing the same charges were Marcelo Desiderio Jr., Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) management division inspector, and Danilo de la Rosa, DOTC technical inspector. The two certified that the cell phones had been delivered and inspected, according to the FIO complaint.
The FIO also recommended that Desiderio and De la Rosa be charged with dishonesty and grave misconduct.
It also recommended the filing of administrative charges against DOTC bids and awards committee members Domingo Reyes Jr., Elmer Soneja, Rebecca Cacatian, Ildefonso Patdu Jr., Geronimo Quintos and Venancio Santidad.
The investigation was prompted by the complaint of former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada who exposed the alleged irregularities in the transaction. Mejorada is a staunch critic and political rival of the Syjucos.
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