COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Lawyers are now preparing charges against former officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao who allegedly pocketed about P2 billion worth of premiums for the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) deducted from the salaries of thousands of teachers.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and the regional education secretary, Jamar Kulayan, announced the move on Thursday in compliance with a provision in a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on a special payment scheme for the embezzled teachers’ premiums that the regional government would sign with the GSIS and the Department of Budget and Management on June 11 in Manila.
“We have identified all of them and they shall be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We have no way but comply with the MOA because it will benefit the thousands of school teachers in the autonomous region, and also in keeping with our reform agenda for the ARMM,” Kulayan said.
The special payment scheme for the missing GSIS premiums would reduce the obligation of the affected teachers to only about P1 billion.
“We are putting our lives on the line by building airtight cases against the culprits, but it’s alright for this is part of the reforms we are introducing in the regional bureaucracy,” Kulayan said.
Insiders said most of those to be prosecuted are scions of influential Moro families, some of them maintaining armed followers both as status symbol and as a means of perpetuating political power.
“To lead is to live dangerously,” said Hataman, who was appointed caretaker of the regional government in December 2011 and who was subsequently elected governor last year.
The regional Department of Education (DepEd) has given permanent teaching positions to more than a thousand licensed teachers after Kulayan and Hataman delisted thousands of “ghost teachers” from the agency’s old payrolls, which proliferated during the past administrations.
The two officials also removed dozens of non-existing schools from the list of academic institutions that had regularly received maintenance and operation grants from the DepEd-ARMM.
With these moves, the Hataman administration has accumulated more than P1 billion in savings, now being spent for the rehabilitation and construction of schools and various capacity-building activities meant to improve the proficiency of teachers.
Kulayan said the filing of graft charges against former DepEd-ARMM officials will start after the MOA, which details the procedures for the settlement of the teachers’ unpaid GSIS premiums, is formally signed.