Mendoza's road projects 'scientifically impossible' - Ombudsman
MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Already in the hot seat over the bloody clash of farmers and police in Kidapawan last April 1, North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza is now facing a different challenge - a graft complaint for the illegal procurement of diesel from a gasoline station owned by her mother.
In a press statement, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said her office found probable cause to charge the governor for the illegal procurement in 2010 of diesel fuel worth P2.4 million from a gasoline station owned by her mother.
The case stemmed from a complaint submitted to the Ombudsman in 2012 against the governor and her family's questionable business transactions using government funds.
Mendoza is set to face trial before the Sandiganbayan for three counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019).
Under Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, a public officer is "prohibited from causing any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence."
Records reveal that Mendoza approved the release of P2.4 million from the provincial funds to pay for 49,526.72 liters of fuel used for one road grader and four dump trucks utilized during the two-day road rehabilitation projects. No public bidding was conducted for the procurement of fuel.
Instead, Mendoza directly contracted with the gas station owned by her mother, Noemi Taliño.
The diesel was divided into three road rehabilitation projects which lasted for two days: 20,833 liters worth P1 million for the maintenance of Ginatilan-Bangkal-Manobo Road; 18,693.83 liters worth P943,669 for the rehabilitation of Carmen-Maridagao Road; and 10,000 liters worth P499,999 for the rehabilitation of Lamitan-Bulacanon Road in Makilala.
The Ombudsman questioned the huge difference between the amount of fuel consumed during the road maintenance projects and the volume of gasoline paid by the provincial government.
Based on the Ombudsman's survey among road grader manufacturers, the biggest volume that can be consumed by a grader for a low to medium road maintenance project is around 36 liters per day, or for a tractor, around 60 liters per day.
The Ombudsman said that the consumption of 20,833 liters per day for the Ginatilan-Bangkal-Manobo Road maintenance is "scientifically impossible" as it would take 35 days for six pieces of equipment, running 8 hours a day to consume 20,000 liters.
The Ombudsman resolution added that the road rehabilitation projects were also "questionable because the roads are in relatively good condition compared to other provincial roads which are in terrible condition."
"The great disparity between the estimated 552 liters of diesel actually consumed for the two-day road maintenance project in Magpet vis-à-vis the 20,833 liters actually paid for, is proof that the fuel-purchase transaction is illegal and that this transaction is obviously a scheme to pocket government funds," the Ombudsman resolution read.
Mendoza told the Ombudsman that there were no other dealers selling fuel at a lower price and there were no other dealers willing to extend credit purchases.
"It was only the Taliño Shell Station which was willing to accommodate the credit term requested by the provincial government," Mendoza told the Ombudsman.
However, the Ombudsman dismissed the argument and said that it found "no compelling justification" for the provincial government to skip the required public bidding.
The Ombudsman said that Mendoza "made it appear that the diesel fuel was procured and used in a government project when in truth, only a small portion of the fuel was actually used and the rest was converted to cash for the benefit of those who were involved in the fraudulent transaction."
NO BIAS, SAYS MENDOZA'S LAWYER
The legal counsel of Mendoza, for her part, said it was "unfortunate" that the Ombudsman found probable cause against the governor for supposed graft.
In a statement, Atty. Vincent Paul Montejo said any accusation of partiality, preference or bias in favor of any gas station has no basis.
"What should be borne in mind is that Gov. Mendoza is not a member of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC). It follows then that she did not handpick or select any particular station as the province's supplier for the P2.4M fuel," Montejo said.
Montejo also maintained that the fuel was procured after it went through a form of bidding, allowed under the Government Procurement Act and as recommended by the BAC.
"Lastly, the Ombudsman also ignored evidence that fuel was actually utilized for the province's road projects," the lawyer added. - With a report from Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News