Coastguard officials dismissed, face graft trial over P68M 'unlawful' office supplies purchase

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 26 2017 09:15 PM

MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the indictment of several former and current officials of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for the alleged "unlawful procurement" of P68-million worth of office supplies three years ago. 

In a related administrative case, the officials were also ordered dismissed from the service for serious dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Those already out of the service were meted a fine equivalent to their one-year salary. 

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the filing of multiple criminal charges against 25 PCG officials for their alleged involvement in irregular disbursements and procurement of office hardware, construction supplies, information technology equipment and cellular phone cards in 2014.

The investigating panel found that "fraud was evident from the canvassing to the delivery of the items," according to its 83-page consolidated resolution.

Facing trial at the Sandiganbayan are ex-Commandant Rodolfo Isorena (25 counts); Commos. William Melad and Aaron Reconquista; RAdmn. Cecil Chen; Cdrs. John Esplana (16 counts), William Arquero (two counts), Jude Thaddeus Besinga (two counts), Roben De Guzman (two counts), Enrico Efren Evangelista Jr., Ferdinand Panganiban, Joselito Quintas, Ivan Roldan (two counts), Rommel Supangan, George Ursabia Jr., Ferdinand Velasco, Wilfred Burgos and Allen Dalangin; Capts. Joeven Fabul (25 counts), Angelito Gil (two counts), Angel Lobaton IV, Christopher Villacorte and Ramon Lopez; Lt. Mark Larsen Mariano, Ens. Mark Franklin Lim II, and Accounting Head Rogelio Caguioa (25 counts). 

Isorena, Esplana, Fabul, Caguioa, Arquero, Lopez, and Quintas are also facing multiple counts of violating the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Among irregularities the Ombudsman noted were transactions pertaining to cellular phone cards, in which Arquero was given a total budget of P930,300, Lopez and Quintas P4.24 million, and Supangan P899,700. 

The respondents were found to have resorted to "the nefarious practice of splitting the purchases into several transactions to avoid public bidding."

Splitting was also noted in the disbursement of a P4-million allotment for troops and organizational support and "command and staff support." Regular office supplies, cleaning materials, hardware and groceries were bought in tranches of P1 million from February to May 2014.

The respondents were found to have "acted in their individual official capacities with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, and gross inexcusable negligence in using public funds" to purchase the said items.

"The above deficiencies should have prevented the disbursements or, at the very least, inspired caution considering the amounts involved and the frequency in which they were being requested. Still, the [funding requests] were approved and a total of P68,041,832.00 in public funds released," the Ombudsman said.

Those dismissed from the service in connection with the administrative case were also meted the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.