The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to file graft charges against recently elected Marikina Representative Bayani Fernando over the alleged misuse of Metro Manila Film Fest (MMFF) funds amounting P24.2 million during his term as the chairman of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
In a resolution recently signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Fernando was ordered charged before the Sandiganbayan with 13 counts of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Also ordered charged with the same offense were the following former MMDA officials:
- Former general manager Robert Nacianceno
- Former assistant general manager Edenison Fainsan
- Former director Leonila Querijero
- Former chief revenue officer Cleofe Ablog
- Former consultant Rolando Josef
Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 prohibits a public official from giving unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference to any party or from causing any party, including the government, undue injury.
Fainsan and Querijero were also found guilty of administrative offense of grave misconduct and were ordered dismissed from service. But the Ombudsman clarified that since they were no longer working with the MMDA, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondents’ one-year worth of salary.
Fainsan and Querijero were also meted with accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, forfeiture of retirement benefits and cancellation of eligibility and disqualification from taking the civil service examination.
In its ruling, the Ombudsman gave weight to the Commission on Audit (COA) special audit report showing that several Notices of Disallowance has been issued to the MMDA during Fernando’s term as chairman for the following alleged anomalous disbursements from 2003 to 2009:
- P1.6 million as supposed birthday cash gift to Fernando
- P11.8 million as expenses for cultural projects
- P10.8 million in cash incentives granted to the chairman and members of MMFF executive committee
The Ombudsman said that based on the COA report, the disbursement of the MMFF fund for the supposed cultural projects were not supported by officials receipts issued by local government units (LGUs), the supposed beneficiaries of the projects.
The Ombudsman said that the fund disbursed for the supposed cash incentives was not supported by duly approved payrolls. Instead, the Ombudsman said the checks issued for the said cash incentives were under the name of Ablog.
“Respondents’ conspiratorial act of authorizing and approving the irregular payments and expenditures depleted the funds of the MMFF thereby causing it undue injury,” the Ombudsman resolution read.
Fernando served as MMDA chairman from June 2002 until December 2009. He was elected as representative of the First District of Marikina on May 9, 2016 elections. —KG, GMA News