Attention: Ombudsman

Ombudsman dared: Get big fish, too

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Local treasury officials on Wednesday assailed the supposed double standards being imposed by the Ombudsman in sanctioning employees who have failed to account for missing funds in their custody.

Sources, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, challenged Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierres to evenly apply the anti-graft law even to high-ranking officials, and not single out lowly employees for “minimal” amount of missing government money.

A treasury official called it “unfair” that their colleague, Janitly Cadiente, treasurer of Kasibu town, was made as a “sacrificial lamb” after the Ombudsman ordered her dismissal for failing to account about P730,000 of the town’s funds.

“If the Ombudsman is indeed [carrying out] an honest-to-goodness campaign against graft and corruption, then why are there many other officials who are running away unscathed despite the large amounts of money that they have failed to account for?” the source said.

“Is it because they are untouchables and beyond the reach of the law?” she asked.

In a five-page decision, Gutierrez ordered Cadiente dismissed from service after the latter failed to explain the shortage of P730, 084.78 in her accounts, covering the period December 17, 2002 to June 23, 2003.

“When an accountable officer fail[s] to produce the missing funds, it is presumed that she applied the same for her personal use and benefit,” which rendered the official “no longer worthy to remain in her position as she had violated the trust reposed on her,” the Ombudsman said.

But Cadiente’s case pales in comparison those in the provincial government, the source said, wherein millions remain unaccounted for due to the supposed “condonation” by some provincial officials who are mandated by law to protect government money.

Official documents obtained by this writer showed that as of July 11, unliquidated cash advances in the provincial government totalled P13.8 million, spread out among more than 110 officials and employees.

Records indicated that former board member Flaviano Balgos Jr., who is no longer with the provincial government, posted the highest cash advance of P2.6 million.

Four other employees have posted unaccounted cash advances totalling P6 million, documents showed.

“The Ombudsman should show its sincerity by making everyone accountable, regardless of one’s rank or connections in government,” the source said, alluding to some employees who have neither been charged nor sanctioned due to their perceived close ties with the province’s leaders.

Kasibu Mayor Romeo Tayaban expressed sympathy for Cadiente, but declined to comment on the anti-graft body’s supposed bias against lowly employees.

“It’s a pity really, but we cannot do anything because that is her accountability,” he said, adding that he, too was unaware that the town’s treasurer had a cash shortage of P730,000.

Sought for comment, provincial treasurer Perfecto Martinez Jr. said his office has begun “administrative measures” against those who have failed to account for their cash advances, in compliance with the recommendations of the Commission on Audit.

“Some employees are now facing charges for their unsettled accounts, while others are on the process of settling them,” he said.

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