Ombudsman suspends Guiuan mayor over alleged post-Yolanda rehab fund misuse

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 28 2019 04:44 PM

MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman has preventively suspended the mayor of Guiuan town, Eastern Samar for 6 months as he faced investigation over alleged misuse of funds for rehabilitation efforts following devastation due to Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

In an order that Ombudsman Samuel Martires signed on Feb. 12, 2019, the anti-graft office said there was sufficient basis to suspend Mayor Christopher Sheen Gonzales after evaluation of documents submitted by its Visayas field investigation bureau.

Also ordered suspended for half a year were municipal accountant Adrian Bernardo, municipal treasurer Felicisima Bernardo, Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) chair and municipal engineer Arsenio Salamida, BAC vice chair Esperanza Cortin, and BAC members Danilo Colandog, Gilberto Labicante, Ma. Nenita Ecleo, Felipe Padual and Zosimo Macabasag.

The Ombudsman said there was preliminary showing that the evidence of guilt of the respondents for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty is “strong.”

The complaint stemmed from rehabilitation projects awarded to two contractors: two to Labasbas Construction at P42.976 million and P12.997 million, and P91.790 million to EDG Americas.

The Ombudsman noted that there were no reliable documents from the winning contractors to prove their technical, legal and financial competence to undertake the repair of the municipal hall, public market and 89 barangay facilities in Guiuan. 

The town was among worst hit by the super typhoon, which left more than 7,000 people dead or missing and flattened communities in Eastern Visayas. 

The anti-graft office said EDG Americas also made deviations from approved plans.

“The deviations observed were the disparities in the number of structures constructed or stories built, discrepancies in actual areas and dimensions, deviations in the quantity and type of materials used in the floor, doors, door locks and windows, repositioning of building components and absence of materials used,” the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman also stressed that funds from the Recovery Assistance on Yolanda or RAY were given to residents of Guiuan, who suffered immensely from the super typhoon.

“Any gross neglect of duty or grave misconduct caused in the use or management of said fund is an offense of severe gravity,” the Ombudsman said.