Embattled Ilocos Sur ex mayor maintains ‘no misuse’

VIGAN CITY, ILOCOS SUR – Former mayor Carlos Asuncion of Sta Catalina town, Ilocos Sur, maintains he did not misuse any public funds from his town’s shares of the tobacco excise taxes.
“We will prove it to the (anti-graft court) that all funds were given to beneficiary-organizations and not in to anyones’ pocket,” he said amidst facing graft and malversation charges already at the Sandiganbayan.
Asuncion’s alleged misuse of P400,000 in tobacco excise tax in 2012 prompted eight counts of graft in violation of Sections 3(e) and 3(j) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and four counts of malversation of public funds filed against him.
The case information claimed that Asuncion coursed P100,000 each from the town’s share of tobacco excise tax on June 15, 2012 to four chapters of Bayanihan ng Kababaihan–Cabittaogan, Subec, Paratong, and Sinabaan.
According to the Office of the Ombudsman, Asuncion allegedly acted in “evident bad faith, manifest partiality or gross inexcusable negligence” when he chose an organization unqualified to receive financial assistance.
Investigators also found that “Bayanihan ng Kababaihan” is not an association affiliated with tobacco farmers, thus giving the organization unwarranted benefit.
Furthermore, Asuncion’s co-accused also knew fully well that the organization is “not legally entitled to such benefit or advantage in view of its lack of legal personality.”
Co-accused in the case are private individuals Mamelfa Amongol, Rosita Ragunjan, Virginia Rafanan, and Genoveva Ragasa.
The Sandiganbayan though will allow Asuncion and the others temporary freedom if they post a bond of P400,000 (P30,000 for each count of graft and P40,000 for each count of malversation).
Earlier, tobacco farmers in Ilocos region and Abra province pushed the National Tobacco Administration for a full audit on all projects it awarded via local government units.
“(We) are asking NTA to conduct a thorough inventory and audit of the projects implemented in the past,” Zaldy Alfiler, secretary general of the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation) said, adding “although we understand that these multi-million projects were handed down to the local government units, isn’t incumbent for the NTA to monitor if these government funds have been utilized for the benefit of tobacco farmers?”
Six Ilocos Norte provincial officials are being held at the House of Rep. since May 29 for contempt in the midst of a House committee on good governance and accountability probe on over P68M tobacco excise tax shares misuse. The House also have threatened Gov. Imee Marcos the same fate like the 6 if she continues to “snub” the investigation.
Stop-Exploitation said the probe and detention of erring officials should not stop in Ilocos Norte but all over Region 1 and other provinces producing tobacco. ACE ALEGRE / ABN

Amianan Balita Ngayon