N. Vizcaya car-buying binge ‘illegal’ says dad
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–A provincial official here has exposed the alleged illegality of the car purchases made by a town government here, without the required approval of the funds used.
Board Member Patricio Dumlao Jr. called on the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the purchase of 18 sports utility vehicles by the town government of Alfonso Castañeda, without the required approval of the town’s supplemental budget before the provincial board.
“The purchase is already in itself highly questionable because we do not believe that spending P24 million for SUVs is a priority. But the fact that the appropriation has not been approved makes it even more anomalous,” he said.
Last December, the town government acquired 14 Nissan Navara units, two Toyota Fortuner units and 2 Nissan Urvan units, using its share of the P750 million real property tax payment collected by the province from American firm California Energy-Casecnan.
CE Casecnan, owner and operator of the Casecnan Multi-purpose Irrigation and Power Project (CMIPP) in Alfonso Castañeda, paid the province P750 million as partial payment of its real property tax obligations. It, however, paid the amount under protest.
Alfonso Castañeda received its share of P337.5 million after town officials submitted a supplemental budget to the province, which supposedly laid out how the town government planned to spend the windfall.
Under the local government code, town ordinances such as those allocating local funds shall be reviewed by the provincial board within 90 days, before the town government can disburse the funds for listed projects.
“We are surprised how the town managed to buy all these vehicles when the budget has not yet been passed the Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” Dumlao said.
Also, documents revealed that the purchase of new vehicles was not listed in the town government’s annual investment plan. In the supplemental budget, only P9 million pesos was earmarked for “procurement of service vehicle” for the mayor’s office.
“What is so sickening about this supplemental budget is that there is not even a sufficient allocation (of funds) for the protection of the environment, such as a reforestation project. We must remind them that the forests of Alfonso Castañeda are the watershed of (the CMIPP); if we do not do something about it, we are killing the goose that lays the golden egg,” he said.
He noted that the budget was prepared in haste, having been approved by local officials barely four days after the CE Casecnan paid the amount on Nov. 13.
This writer tried but failed to reach Mayor Jerry Pasigian through his mobile phone. Members of his staff said they were told that the mayor was sick.
But Vice Gov. Jose Gambito, who is also presiding officer of the provincial board, downplayed Dumlao’s claims.
“We cannot yet ascertain whether there is something illegal about the purchases because as of now, there is yet no indication that (Alfonso Castañeda officials) have already paid for the vehicles,” he said.
The mere fact that vehicles are now being used does not mean outright that money has already been spent to pay for them, Gambito added.
He also defended the car purchases made by Alfonso Castañeda officials.
“We may disagree with what our officials do, but they are our still elected leaders. That is the price that we have to pay in a democracy,” he said.