Laoag City treasurer faces plunder raps over missing P85M in gov’t funds
LAOAG CITY—The National Bureau of Investigation has charged this city’s treasurer with plunder in connection with the P85-million fund that was reported missing from the Laoag treasury last year.
The nine-page complaint dated Feb. 21 against Elena Asuncion was filed in the Office of the Ombudsman, according to lawyer Diosdado Araos, agent in charge of the NBI Laoag district office.
Asuncion reportedly left for Hawaii in June 2016.
Araos said money was taken from local funds starting 2007 when the city government was headed by Michael Fariñas, now the vice mayor.
First hired as a laborer and detailed at the Laoag City treasurer’s office in March 1982, Asuncion rose through the ranks, serving as barangay bookkeeper, then as cashier for 19 years, until she was promoted to city treasurer on July 1, 2007.
Asuncion saw a gap in the accounting of cash collections because of her long tenure at the city cashier’s division, according to the NBI complaint.
“Hence, when she became treasurer, she devised and executed her plan to systematically misappropriate, misuse and embezzle public funds,” it said.
Based on the paper trail, the NBI said Asuncion had been instructing the city’s liquidating and disbursing officers to segregate portions of the cash collections remitted to the cashier’s division.
The amounts segregated ranged from P200,000 to P500,000 and were supposedly for time deposit accounts of the city government.
The NBI said Asuncion would then instruct employees of the treasury department to prepare bank deposit slips and had these signed by the head of the cashier’s division.
Investigators said the city treasurer handled the time deposits herself and would submit the duplicate copies of bank deposit slips issued by the liquidating and disbursing officers.
Those assigned at the cashier’s division assumed that Asuncion deposited the money at the Land Bank of the Philippines, the Development Bank of the Philippines, the Philippines National Bank and the Rang-ay Bank.
But the bank account numbers that Asuncion kept on file turned out to be fictitious.
For failing to detect the discrepancies, the resident city auditor supervised by the Commission on Audit, the city accountant or those from the cashier’s division should also be administratively sanctioned, the NBI said.
“Only Asuncion can shed light on the matter if she comes out in the open and give her side on the controversy,” Araos said.
He said it took them months to complete the investigation because some banks refused to cooperate.
“Two banks declined our request to look into the accounts and other banks took a while to release documents necessary for the investigation,” Araos said.
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