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Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the filing of multiple criminal charges against 25 officials of the Philippine Coast Guard for their involvement in the P68M irregular disbursements and procurement of office, hardware, construction supplies, information technology equipment and cellular phone cards in 2014.

Ordered indicted before the Sandiganbayan for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (R.A. No. 3019) 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 violation of Section 65 of the Government Procurement Reform Act (R.A. No. 9184).

In the 83-page Consolidated Resolution signed by the Ombudsman on 24 July 2017, the investigating panel found that fraud was evident from the canvassing to the delivery of the items. Among the irregularities noted were the transactions pertaining to cellular cards in which Cdr Arquero was allowed a total budget of P930,300.00, Capt. Lopez and Cdr. Quintas were allowed a total of P4,239,710.00, and Cdr Supangan was allowed a total of P899,700.00. The Panel found that the respondents resorted to the nefarious practice of splitting the purchases into several transactions to avoid public bidding. The same practice of splitting was also found to be present with respect to disbursement of the P4M allotment for troops and organizational support and “Command and staff support.”  The purchases of regular office supplies, cleaning materials, hardware and groceries were thus split into P1 million purchases from February to May 2014. Such purchases were made daily or at close intervals.

In sum, the Office found that the respondents have acted in their individual official capacities with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, and gross inexcusable negligence in using public funds to purchase cellcards, hardware, office, construction, and IT supplies such as moleskine journals, artline fabric markers, pilot ballpens, Epson styluses, colored printer ink, wireless optical mouses, energizers, paints, screwdrivers, wireless routers, among other things, without public bidding.

“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 SCAs were approved and a total of P68,041,832.00 in public funds released,” the Ombudsman stated.

[A]s the disbursements under process involved SCAs, it became incumbent upon respondents – especially VAdmn. Isorena as the Head of the Agency – to ensure that the funds disbursed were utilized in accordance with law,” she added.

In the related administrative case, Ombudsman Morales likewise found the respondents liable for Serious Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct, and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service, and imposed the penalty of dismissal from the service including the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office. In the event that the penalty can no longer be enforced against the respondents due to their separation in service, the penalty shall be converted to a Fine equivalent to the respondent’s one-year salary.

Earlier in December 2016, the Ombudsman issued a preventive suspension against the respondents pending the investigation of the case.

Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 prohibits public officials 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; while Section 65 of R.A. No. 9184 provides that, without prejudice to the provisions of R.A. No. 3019 public officers who commit splitting of contracts which exceed procedural purchase limits shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of not less than six (6) years and one (1) day, but not more than fifteen (15) years. ###