Graft raps filed vs Sorsogon officials, bank execs over P350-M loan


SORSOGON CITY — Sorsogon provincial officials and two top executives of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) have been charged for graft in connection with the P350-million loan recently acquired by the province.

Charged for violations of Republic Act No. 3019 otherwise known as “The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act” were Gov. Raul Lee, Vice-Gov. Antonio Escudero and provincial board members Rebecca Aquino, Fernando David Duran III, Arnulfo Perete, Francisco Eric Ravanilla, Angel Escandor, Benito Doma, Bernard Hao, Patrick Lee-Rodrigueza and Nelson Maraña.

Also included in the criminal complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman by Board Member Vladimir Frivaldo were LBP-Legazpi City Branch Manager Hil Benedict Manzanades and LBP vice president Renato Eje for allegedly conspiring in the commission of the offense.

Administrative complaints for grave misconduct and serious dishonesty were also lodged by Frivaldo against the provincial officials.

The case stemmed from the P350-million loan obtained from the LBP by the provincial government in late 2011 which Frivaldo, in the complaint said “are illegal and grossly detrimental and disadvantageous to the provincial government of Sorsogon”.

The loan was applied for by Lee on approval of a resolution by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), headed by Escudero as presiding officer authorizing him to do so in October 2011.

The loan with its proceeds supposedly for the implementation of various infrastructure projects of the provincial government was subsequently approved and the initial amount of P100 million released in the same year.

As of last May 31, Efilda Nogales, the provincial treasurer and Mercedes Ativo, the provincial accountant said in a certification obtained by Frivaldo that over P72.9 million of the fund were already spent by the province for the payment of infrastructure projects funded under the P350-million loan.

The release of the remaining P250 million is being awaited by the province.

Frivaldo asked the Ombudsman to immediately come up with measures so that the remaining fund is held in abeyance and the released amount of P100 million be returned to the creditor bank.

In accusing Lee, Escudero and the SP member of graft, Frivaldo said the accused directly violated Section 3 of RA 3019, which says: “persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent authority or an offense in connection with the official duties of the latter, or allowing himself to be persuaded, induced, or influenced to commit such violation or offense” constitute corrupt practices.

“The respondent vice-governor who is also the presiding officer of the SP and the respondent board members violated a cardinal rule in the passage of resolutions and ordinances as provided for in Article 7 of Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Local Government Code,” he said.

Further, he said the respondents did not even exert efforts nor initiate any actions necessary to secure concessional interest rates or such interest rates lower than the prevailing interest rate to justify their actions.

The interest rate of the loan acquired from the LBP was 5.061 percent while the rate earlier offered by the Philippine National Bank (PNB) for the same loan was only five percent, he said.

“It is noteworthy that there was neither a single official committee hearing held nor any public consultation done for this purpose– a glaring show of conspiracy because despite this, the SP expeditiously passed and approved the resolution allowing the governor to acquire the loan from LBP has a higher interest rate,” according to Frivaldo.

In asking the Ombudsman that the loan agreement be declared “illegal, therefore null and void”, Frivaldo said the respondents provincial officials should be charged criminally and administratively before the Sandiganbayan and that they should be meted with preventive suspensions from office while investigations are being conducted on the case. (PNA)

RMA/lq/DOC/cbd/mec

Original article is published on July 16.

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