CEBU CITY, Philippines — A former mayor in Bohol province has been “perpetually” barred from holding a government position for unlawfully claiming P105,000 in reimbursements for expenses incurred in four seminars she didn’t attend during her term.
The Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas found former Mayor Apolinaria Balistoy of Cortes town guilty of serious dishonesty, grave misconduct and falsification of an official document.
She has been ordered dismissed from service, but since she is no longer holding any government position, the penalty imposed on her shall be converted into a fine equivalent to her one-year salary payable to the anti-graft office.
The anti-graft court also forfeited her retirement benefits and barred her from holding any government position.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government was directed by the Ombudsman to implement its decision. Copies of the ruling will be furnished the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Commission on Elections.
In her decision, graft investigation and prosecution officer Llorene Grace Razo-Ompod said public servants must always exhibit the highest sense of honesty and integrity.
Ompod’s ruling was approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
Concerned citizens and Cortes municipal officials told the Ombudsman that Balistoy claimed a total of P105,000 in reimbursements for expenses incurred when she and her son allegedly attended four modules of training on Local Environment Governance and Barangay E-Agri in Quezon City in 2010.
It turned out that they didn’t attend the training. Instead, Balistoy conspired with Daphne Roxas, executive director of the Asian Women’s Network on Gender and Development, one of the seminar organizers, to obtain certificates of attendance for the training to be able to seek reimbursement, the ruling said.
Balistoy was given a reimbursement of P30,000 for attending the first module in Quezon City on May 27- 28, 2010.
But she was in Cebu City to attend the Land Use Conversion on May 27, 2010. She also claimed reimbursement for traveling expenses amounting to P3,271.
Balistoy claimed a reimbursement of P16,000 for expenses she and her son incurred for attending the second module in Quezon City on July 2, 2010.
But the complainants said both mother and son were present in a meeting at the mayor’s office on July 2, 2010. The meeting was presided by Balistoy, said three local officials.
Balistoy was given a reimbursement of P24,000 for attending Module 3 of the training in Quezon City on Aug. 2-3, 2010.
But the complainants discovered that Balistoy was at SMX Convention Center in SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City for the 5th National Workshop on Civil Registration from Aug. 2 to 5, 2010. She received a cash advance in the amount of P26,576 for the workshop.
For Module 4 of the training in Quezon City, Balistoy received a reimbursement of P35,000, although she did not submit supporting documents.
The COA issued a notice of disallowance on the P105,000 paid for by the province to cover the four training modules attended by Balistoy and her son because the transactions were “very doubtful, highly irregular and not proper.”
Balistoy was not given travel authority by the Bohol provincial government to join the training.
In her counter-affidavit, Balistoy insisted that she and her son attended the four training modules as proven by her certificates of appearance.
The anti-graft office said Balistoy’s defense didn’t outweigh the documentary evidence the office obtained. SFM
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