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6 COA execs fired for graft

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 01:04 AM November 07, 2015
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The Commission on Audit building. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

After firing a slew of public officials—friends and foes alike of the Aquino administration—in recent weeks, the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday trained its guns on a fellow watchdog in the government.

Hit was the Commission on Audit (COA) where six auditors were ordered fired for receiving P25 million in “huge and arbitrary” bonuses from the “graft-ridden” Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) from 2006 to 2010.

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Two COA data machine operators who were assigned to the LWUA were also dismissed for receiving P140,000 in additional monthly incentive from the agency.

In six instances, they also got hefty bonuses twice a month from the state-run water utility whose officials had been previously faulted by the Ombudsman for various graft-related offenses.

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Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales also ordered the indictment for graft of eight other COA auditors for getting huge bonuses from the LWUA.

Grave misconduct

Sacked for grave misconduct were COA auditors Juanito Daguno Jr., Proceso Saavedra, Teresita Tam, Corazon Cabotage, Evangeline Sison and Vilma Tiongson.

Also ordered dismissed from the service were COA data machine operators Violeta Gamil and Roberto Villa.

In a statement issued on Friday, Morales said the incentives given to Daguno and the others “were huge and arbitrary.”

The news came a day after the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal of 30 local government officials in Mindanao, among them Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno, a staunch political ally of President Benigno Aquino III.

Besides their removal from office, the COA employees were also perpetually barred from serving in the government.

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Benefits forfeited

The Ombudsman also ordered the forfeiture of their retirement benefits and the cancellation of their civil service eligibility.

Morales said that as state auditors and COA employees, they were “presumed to know the prohibition” against receiving huge bonuses and allowances.

“[T]heir patent disregard of the existing policy of their own institution against the practice of receiving additional compensation cannot be deemed a mere lapse of judgment,” Morales said.

“[The] COA auditors and employees were obviously motivated by malicious intent to favor self-interest at the expense of the public,” she added.

Morales said “their acts are contrary to accepted rules of right and duty, honesty and good morals.”

Graft and corruption

The Ombudsman also approved the indictment of eight other COA auditors—Edna Anical, Thelma Baldovino, Evelyn de Leon, Nestorio Ferrera, Zoharayda Obog, Ligaya Principio, Jesusa Punsalan and Paulino Sarmiento—for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

LWUA officials Lorenzo Jamora, Wilfredo Feleo, Orlando Hondrade and Daniel Landingin were ordered suspended for six months without pay after they were found guilty of simple misconduct.

“In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to six months’ salary [of the respondents],” the Ombudsman statement said.

It said the LWUA officials “approved and signed” the letters of instructions directing the release of “irregular bonuses” for the COA personnel.

“‘[T]heir stamp of approval and authorization for fund disbursement as payment for the questioned benefits is a clear transgression’ of the Salary Standardization Law and other COA regulations,” the antigraft body said.

Bonuses

Citing records from the COA human resource office, the Ombudsman said Ferrera received the biggest incentive, P961,000.

Additional bonuses were also given to Baldovino (P886,000), Anical (P789,000), De Leon (P517,000), Daguno (P615,000), Gamil (P834,000), Obog (P658,000), Principio (P642,000), Punsalan (P602,000), Saavedra (P692,000), Sarmiento (P703,000), Tam (P592,000), Villa (P650,000), Cabotage (P542,000), Sison (P183,000), and Tiongson (P164,000).

In November 2006, the Ombudsman said Gamil and Villa got as much as P140,000 and P43,000 each in bonuses.

The Ombudsman said they were also given “bonuses twice a month in… September and December 2007, September and December 2008, and March 2010.”

An independent prosecutor tasked with busting graft in the government, the Ombudsman in recent weeks has ordered the indictment of Vice President Jejomar Binay and the dismissal of his son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr. for alleged corruption, Capiz Gov. Victor Tanco Sr. and his son Vladimir for alleged extortion.

The Ombudsman has also ordered the dismissal of Masbate Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete and Atimonan, Quezon, Mayor Jose Mendoza.

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TAGS: COA, Commission On Audit, Corazon Cabotage, Evangeline Sison, Graft, Juanito Daguno Jr., Local Water Utilities Administration, LWUA, Office of the Ombudsman, Proceso Saavedra, Teresita Tam, Vilma Tiongson
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