Marcos faces Fariñas in House inquiry, walks away with Ilocos 6

Jul 25, 2017 ...

Ilocos Norte Governor Imee R. Marcos faced the House of Representatives Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability today, in the fifth hearing addressing the province's use of funds sourced from the tobacco excise tax or Republic Act (RA) 7171.

The investigation was initiated through House Resolution No. 882 by Ilocos Norte 1st District Rep. and Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas, Marcos' main political enemy.

Despite her lawyers' and supporters' advice for her not to attend the hearing in fear of her facing the same fate as the "Ilocos Six" Provincial Capitol employees who were detained last May 29, the governor appeared before the house, saying she has nothing to hide.

"Handa po akong sumagot sa mga katanungan ng Committee para makatulong [in aid of legislation]," began Marcos, stating, "Walang corruption o katiwalian na naganap sa pagbili ng Pamahalaan ng Ilocos Norte sa nasabing mga minitruck. Walang naging kickback o ghost purchase ang Pamahalaan ng Ilocos Norte."

She clarified that some of the vehicles distributed earlier had been donations from the private sector.

"Nabili ang mga minitruck sa napakababang presyo, sang-ayon sa mga hiling ng aking mga kababayang magsasaka sa Ilocos Norte. Walang overpriced.Dumaan sa pagsusuri ng Commission on Audit ang lahat ng transaksyon na tinutukoy, at wala silang naging adverse findings sa Annual Audit Report, 2011o 2012 man... limang taon makalipas ang nasabing transaksyon, walang disallowance.

"Higit sa lahat, ang mga minitruck ay pinakikinabangan hanggang ngayon."

Marcos also explained that the vehicles purchased using RA 7171 funds were intended as a way to increase farmers' income, which is provided for under the said law. They also function as a post-harvest facility as part of the agricultural transport system.

Of the Ilocos Six she shared, "They should not be penalized for telling the truth, and they deserve to come home to their loved ones in Ilocos Norte and finally sleep in the comfort of their homes tonight."

Fariñas, at the end of the hearing, moved to release the six employees after they admitted to signing the disbursement vouchers and other documents pertaining to the tobacco-funded purchases.

They had been detained for 55 days.

Committee points out COA negligence

The House Committee also pointed out accountability of COA for not ensuring the Provincial Government's receipt of the audit observation memorandum (AOM) which has been used as evidence in the congressional hearings.

Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Repsentative Reynaldo V. Umali interpellated on the lapses done by the COA, asking both provincial and regional level officers on the processes and what could have been done to regulate the alleged wrong transaction.

"Kung ginawa ng COA ang trabaho niya, eh dapat hindi po nangyari na ang isang transaksyon na puno ng "red flags" ika nga, Umali said.

According to Mr. Cornelio Viernes, an audit team member, the alleged irregularities were discussed in the exit conference in the presence of the LFC but in the absence of the governor.

He also stated that there is a summary of audit observation and recommendations when an exit conference is done.

Viernes had mentioned that the decision whether or not there are irregularities on the transactions lies with the Audit Team Leader (ATL) and the Supervising Auditor.

Mr. Rizalino Franco had been mentioned as the concurrent ATL and Supervising Auditor when the transactions happened in 2011.

In contrast, Michael R. Bacani, who recently assumed position as Director of COA Office Region 1 denied that the office did receive a certain AOM from Viernes, emphasizing that they are just liable to review annual reports from the provincial [level] offices, thus clueless that there is indeed irregularities on the transactions.

"Sa annual audit report, wala pong ganong nakasulat [irregularities] dahil nga pos a level (provincial) pa lang po ng audit team ay wala silang ini-raise na issue sa pagbili sa pamamagitan po ng cash advance. Wala pong umakyat na issue sa regional office," said Bacani.

With these, Umali asked the Committee Chairman to review COA's processes to regulate and avoid lapses.

Rep. Umali also reiterated that he requested the COA Chair to look into their reports. However, COA Ilocos Norte said that they are still "planning" to submit a request to the Commission proper for them to proceed to the review of the transactions.   

This pushed Umali to question COA, saying "Hahaba po ang usapan natin dito. The very first meeting I attended this was precisely what I motioned this Committee for the Chairman of the COA to do, and until now we have not done the first step which is to request or to review the questioned transactions which have dated back in 2011 and 2012? Bakit po ganito tayo sa COA?"


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