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By Jun Ramirez
The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the filing of criminal charges against 10 local officials of Maripipi, Biliran for their alleged involvement in the alleged anomalous procurement of medicines worth more than P7.9 million in 2010.
Facing charges for violation of the anti-graft law are former Mayor Noel Albelda; bids and awards committee (BAC) members Wilma Elairon, Marietta Campollo, Amelia Bacolod, Sonia Alavera, Julio Cairo Jr., Sergio Mejarito, and Tito Cairo; municipal accountant Michelle Quinte; and municipal health officer Mary Grace Llever.
Also included in the charge sheet are Commission on Audit (COA) state auditor Genelito Balila; Jerome Capuyan and Cherel Serato, representatives from drugs supplier Suremeds Marketing.
The Ombudsman also found the local officials guilty of grave misconduct and ordered their dismissal from the service, forfeiture of their retirement benefits and permanent disqualification.
In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to the respondent’s salary for one year.
Investigation showed that in June 2010, the municipality undertook the multimillion-peso purchase of medicines to be funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong.
The project was awarded to Suremeds despite several substantial lapses in the procurement process including irregularity in the dates appearing in the bidding documents.
Among other procurement irregularities noted were the conduct of pre-bid conference prior to the issuance of bidding documents, sudden change in the date of opening of bids without any bid bulletins issued and the award of project to Suremeds despite its nonsubmission of performance security.
According to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, “the circumstances present the disturbing picture that not only did public respondents ignore the discrepancies in the bidding documents submitted by Suremeds, but that information regarding the procurement that was to take place from May to June 2010 was already made known to Suremeds as early as March 2010.”
As to COA auditor Balila, Morales said “all throughout the procurement process, [his] hand as the auditor could be seen, as majority of the documents pertaining to the subject procurement had been marked pre-audited by him on 22 June 2010. He stands charged for not having noticed or minded at all, the numerous discrepancies and irregularities attending the subject procurement despite having pre-audited the documents, and allowing the payment to be disbursed.”