Former Surigao del Norte governor faces raps over alleged disaster fund misuse

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 06 2023 04:05 PM

MANILA — A former governor of Surigao del Norte is facing plunder, graft, and malversation complaints before the Ombudsman's office over his alleged misuse of disaster funds.

Francisco Matugas, who last served as the province's governor from 2019 to 2022, was slapped with the raps for allegedly using disaster management funds worth P60 million to buy children's books last year.

In the complaint filed by Oscar Pospia, incumbent Gov. Lyndon Barbers' chief of staff, Matugas and other former provincial officials supposedly diverted funds meant for victims of Super Typhoon Odette that pummeled several provinces in Mindanao in 2021.

Aside from Matugas, the following provincial officials were also included in the complaint: Ma. Myrla Padyhag, Nelia Lomocso, Ma. Teresa Real, Maricris Sulapas, Juliet Dumaguit-Go, Harem Taruc, Dominico Larong, Jr., Joselito Manongas, Felisa Cordova, Lucila Inot, and Azuena Simbol.

“Ito pong kasong ito, nag-ugat after ng Super Typhoon Odette na talagang winasak ang probinsya. So nakita po namin habang naghihirap mga kababayan namin sa Surigao, hirap sa pagkain, wasak mga bahay nila, nalaman namin na may pondo pala ang probinsya na higit P50 million at instead gamitin sa rehabilitation ng aming probinsya lalong lalo sa government infrastructure, paaralan at relief or pagkain, iyong pondo ay pinangbili ng children's book na hindi kailangan noong panahong iyon kasi wala naman face-to-face [na] klase,” Pospia said.

(This case stemmed from Super Typhoon Odette which badly hit the province. We found out that while our fellow residents in Surigao were dealing with food shortage and destroyed homes, the provincial government had more than P50 million which it could have used to rehabilitate the province. But instead of fixing government infrastructures or sending relief goods, the money was used to buy children's books that were not needed at the time because there were still no face-to-face classes.)

Pospia said among the titles Matugas purchased were "Joy Joy the Jolly Boy", "Mimi and the Mouse," and other similar books for school children.

The complainant also noted that the alleged fund diversions were done in March 2022, less than 2 months before the May 9 elections that year.

“Sa tingin namin kailangan masagot ng former governor bakit ganoon nang mabigyan ng hustisya ang mga kababayan namin,” Pospia said.

(We believe the former governor should give us an explanation behind his decision to buy children's books so that our fellow residents would be given justice.)
Pospia also noted that despite being Barbers' chief of staff, he filed the complaint in his personal capacity and in behalf of his fellow Surigaonons. Barbers defeated Matugas in the 2022 polls.

ABS-CBN News reached out to Matugas for comment, but the former governor declined give a statement as he has not yet received a copy of the complaint.