COA’s anomalous “relationship”
By Ermin Garcia Jr.
A RECENT report of the Commission on Audit disallowing the disbursement of public funds for fiestas brought to the fore a very anomalous relationship between key city officials in Dagupan that bred, and continues to breed corruption.
Aside from the report possibly causing Dagupan City Auditor Ofelia Celi (and possibly other auditors) to lose sleep on nights, Ms. Celi must be made to account for reports forwarded by disillusioned and disgruntled city hall employees about unreported anomalies known to her as the city auditor.
In addition to Ms. Celi’s failure to report the illegal disbursements of city funds for both the city annual fiesta and the Bangus Festival made by the Lim administration in 2010-2011, I failed to read a COA report on the millions collected made by the city hall from the two events. Was an assurance from her that the revenues earned would not be reported the reason why the executive committees of both events refused to render reports to the city council? I can only imagine how much were pocketed by the cabal in the mayor’s office.
Then in reviewing the city auditor’s 2007 and 2010 reports, I also failed to see any mention about the lost or unregistered title to the 30-hectare lot in Barangay Awai in San Jacinto. The loss of ownership of the city was the basis of the complaint now pending before the Ombudsman. Was the city auditor a key participant in the cover-up?
Ms. Celi’s 2010 report was also quiet about the illegal biding and overpricing of food items bought for the children’s feeding program in 2010 managed by Mr. Lim’s executive assistant Beep-beep Tan, now a candidate for councilor under Mr. Lim’s slate.
Then, there is still the unconfirmed report that P3 M was already paid for the construction of the tent at the controversial Daongan ed Dawel project in spite of the fact that the project was never approved by the city council, and no funds were appropriated for it. Ms. Celi had no adverse comment on it.
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THE RELATIONSHIP. What’s with her office and the Lim administration?
I had received disturbing reports about an anomalous “relationship” between her and the office of the city mayor but since I had no official document to confirm the report, I shrugged it off. Well, a recent official communication of the city hall signed by Mayor Benjie Lim and City Administrator Vlad Mata finally provided the confirmation.
The document listed and identified Ms. Celi’s daughter as an “emergency worker” assigned to the city planning and development office!
While I am certain Ms. Celi’s daughter is fully qualified to serve in the city hall under any capacity, her appointment, however, created a highly irregular situation that compromised the integrity of the Commission on Audit in the city. Then as viewed inside the city hall today, the appointment can only be perceived either as a Damocles sword hanging over Ms. Celi’s head i.e., daughter would be terminated if she refuses to toe the line) or as a compensating reward i.e., daughter would be retained for as long as she helps cover up anomalies.
The motive can easily be determined by Ms. Celi’s response to the question: Was it she or the mayor that sought her daughter’s employment as an “emergency worker”?
To Ms. Celi’s credit, however, she reported the illegal release, use of calamity funds in 2010, an anomaly that was also raised before the Ombudsman in the complaint filed by Mr. Leo Angeles. But of course, she knew it would be indefensible on her part not to report the anomaly because the national law on the terms for the use of calamity fund is explicit. For that inexcusable “gaffe”, my city hall mole said Ms. Celi heard a mouthful from someone at the city mayor’s office.
A serious concern now is: how is this situation being viewed by her superiors both at the regional and the national levels? Why is this “relationship” being allowed to continue to this day? Are others involved in this scandalous arrangement?
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RISKING CAREERS. The case of Ms. Celi calls to mind the penchant of the Lim administration to risk the careers of many good men and women in government and in private sectors in many of its suspected anomalous deals.
In the Awai land deal, then councilors Vlad Mata, Jojo Guadiz, Nic Aquino and others’ political careers were compromised. In the MC Adore plot, nine councilors’ political careers (including the mayor’s son, Brian) are now marginalized. Even the integrity of business groups like local chapters of the Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Association, the United Architects of the Phils. and the Chamber of Commerce have been put at risk by making them sign a manipulated report on the building’s assessment as basis for the minimum bid. At the city hall, some executive assistants and department heads are being made to participate in conspiracies to defraud the city, police chiefs’ careers are risked by covering up for illegal gambling activities in the city. (Need I mention the big number of media practitioners who transformed from being independent to being lapdogs for the city hall?).
The GMA administration destroyed many institutions and has been stopped. But the Lim administration has not been stopped and continues to destroy careers of good men and women. Mercifully, judging by the number of reports on anomalies forwarded to us by disillusioned officials and rank and file, there are still more men and women in city hall, guided by morally upright values and principles, who continue to be motivated solely by a mission to serve God and country.
Yes, the force against corruption still outnumbers the weak.
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MY RELATIVE’S DENIAL. I was told my relative Robert Erfe-Mejia denied my account of his involvement in my political adventure in 2001 through Orly Navarro’s radio program. He denied being my campaign manager, and having left my campaign to join the BSL camp. And he claimed that he campaigned for me till the end! Fine, I can live with all that besides It’s all academic. Didn’t I say I did not lose sleep over his moving to BSL? At least he did not deny me as his relative.
Nonetheless, here’s my reaction to his denial for whatever it’s worth: Robert, try explaining, even with the help of Orly and Leu Paragas who I’m told have ceased telling their respective radio audiences the many ugly truths about BSL, how in the world did you get to be appointed as POSO chief after the elections if you worked for my campaign until the end? Was that your reward for being the Trojan horse in my camp till the end of the campaign? Frankly, I’d like to believe it was a reward for deciding to work for him, and cutting clean with me, finally. Also try describing the relationship of your son to BSL at that time, which prompted you to stop working for my campaign. Ho-hum. (Robert, it’s a non-issue for me, but it’s your boss who wants the 2001 election as an issue to discredit my comments about him, so deal with it!).
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KARINA’S DEATH ANNIVERSARY. Our family will remember Karina, the youngest in our brood who died on November 1, 1963 when she drowned off the Tondaligan Beach, with joy in our hearts knowing she is with Jesus. Fr. Arsenio Jesena, SJ had written about her life http://sundaypunch.prepys.com/archives/2007 /07/22/ karina-and-ermin/