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Convicted execs still getting salaries

/ 12:42 AM March 22, 2014

Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon. Photo from http://www.sarangani.gov.ph

ALABEL, Sarangani—Two members of the provincial board who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for graft continue to be on the payroll of the provincial government.

Sarangani Gov. Steve Solon confirmed that Eugene Alzate and Cornelio Martinez Jr., board members who had been convicted of graft over a scam involving provincial funds, were still being paid their salaries.

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Solon told the Inquirer in a text message that the two officials’ names had not been stricken off the payroll list, as he had not yet received an official copy of orders from the Sandiganbayan, which found the two officials guilty of involvement in the 2002 P475,000 fund mess linked to bogus nongovernment organizations.

The case is identical to the one that Janet Lim-Napoles and three senators—Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile—are facing over the theft of up to P10 billion in public funds credited as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, of the senators.

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The case against this province’s board members and other officials involved in the P475,000 fund scam took 12 years to conclude, and critics of the country’s justice system said the case against Napoles, suspected of masterminding the P10 billion scam, Estrada, Revilla and Enrile could take much longer.

This early, Estrada and Revilla have gone on the offensive, accusing witnesses in the case against them of being used by higher authorities in a demolition job against them. Estrada is reported to be the favored vice presidential candidate of Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is running for President in 2016. Revilla is reported to be a possible presidential candidate in 2016 of the party identified with Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a former President who is now detained for election sabotage and plunder.

The provincial board members were convicted along with seven other officials and former officials on Feb. 22. The two provincial lawmakers were arrested inside the court where they attended the promulgation of the case against them.

Solon said he was “seeking the opinion of national [officials]” on the issue of the continued release of the salaries of Alzate and Martinez.

But he added that it might not be proper to deny them of their benefits because “as of now, their case is under appeal, hence is considered on process.”

“And there has not been any order directed to my office to remove the [officials from the payroll]. As soon as there is an order, we will effect that order,” Solon said.

Mary Ann Gadian, one of the two whistle-blowers in the fund scam, expressed disgust over what she called the lack of political will on the part of the provincial leadership on the case.

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“I lost my job when I turned state witness and until now, I’m still jobless. My two children have stopped schooling because I can no longer afford to send them to school. Now, here comes two elected officials of the province who continue to enjoy their salaries despite being convicted by the Sandiganbayan of graft,” she said.

“This is highly unfair on the part of the taxpayers. They continue to pay for the salary of convicted provincial board members who are doing nothing for the province inside the jail,” Gadian said.

Gadian urged the Department of the Interior and Local Government to stop what she said was this kind of abuse in local governments.

Pastor Avelino Sichon, acting chair of the Sarangani People’s Action for Reform and Good Governance, vowed to help stop the special treatment given by the provincial government to the two convicted board members.

“In my mind, they are no longer entitled to receive salaries unless the Sandiganbayan decision is reversed by the Supreme Court,” Sichon said. Aquiles Z. Zonio, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Graft and Corruption, Steve Solon
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