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House panel cites Cagayan prov’l exec in contempt

August 10, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 262 views

THE House Committees on Public Accounts and Suffrage and Electoral Reforms on Wednesday resumed the joint inquiry on the alleged misuse of public funds in Cagayan during the 2022 elections.

The panel cited Cagayan Provincial Administrator Atty. Maria Rosario Mamba Villaflor in contempt after it was found out she allegedly did not sign the documents authorizing 10 Cagayan provincial officials to attend the joint inquiry last Monday.

The panel also rejected the justification Villaflor offered for her refusal to sign the authority to travel documents, i.e., that the concerned Cagayan provincial officers Vita Vergara, Catalino Arugay, Maritel Bautista, Kristine Reyes, Ma. Anita Obispo, Amelia Manalo, Rosario Mandac, Heracleo Dumapal, Roselle Buncad, Daisy Baguisi, and Atty. Rogelio Taliping had scheduled activities, including the distribution of financial and relief assistance for Typhoon Egay victims, as well as the finalization of their post-disaster assessment.

However, the officials allegedly admitted that the aid distribution could continue even without them, and that not all are involved in relief operations.

The panel ordered that Villaflor be detained at the House facility for 10 days for her interference with the joint inquiry.

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba was given until Thursday to explain why he should not be cited for contempt also due to his absences. A show cause order was already served to Gov. Mamba.

The inquiry, presided over by ABANG LINGKOD Party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano and Bukidnon Rep. Jonathan Keith Flores, was held
pursuant to House Resolutions (HR) 145 and 146, filed by Cagayan Rep. Joseph Lara.

Lawmakers said the Cagayan provincial government is facing possible violations of alleged unauthorized payment of some P16 million to Bombo Radyo Tuguegarao for Mamba’s local radio program.

Cagayan Vice Governor Melvin “Boy” Vargas Jr., who heads the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Cagayan, attended the hearing.

The SP approves the annual budget of the province.

Lara lamented that Mamba’s radio program, Caygandang Cagayan, is allegedly being used to hit his critics.

Vargas said that there was no alleged approval from the SP as far as disbursement of payment to the program is concerned.

“Mr. Chair, we called their attention for how many times, actually per year during the budget deliberations but they were not cooperating with us. They were not answering us if the payment is coming from the provincial government or not,” he said.

Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said: “Since there is no authority given to the provincial governor as well as the accountant, and the budget officer to release payment for this program, from the beginning there’s already a violation.”

“If public funds are being used for that program, and under the local government code there has to be an authority given by the Sanggunian,” Barbers added.

Vargas also told the panel that he had called the attention of the Commission on Audit (CoA), but nothing happened.

SAGIP Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta joined Barbers in expressing disappointment.

“Kung talagang wala (appropriation), ang laki po ng violation ng lahat na involved dito (If there is really no appropriation, then all those involved have committed a huge violation),” he said.

Cavite 4th district Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., panel vice chairman, asked Bombo Radyo Tuguegarao to provide to the panel the receipts it has send to the provincial government this year and in 2022, which was an election year.