Ilocos Norte board step up deeper investigation on Laoag’s PHP85-M missing fund

LAOAG CITY — Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP or Provincial Board) is set to conduct its own deeper investigation, following the Laoag City government officials failure to present a clear measure, assuring taxpayers here that the loss of over PHP85 million will not happen again.

On Monday, the Laoag City council led by Vice Mayor Michael Fariñas is expected to show up at the session hall upon the invitation of the superior saggunian but only three newly-elected City Councilors met with the provincial board instead. They are city councilors Roque Benjamin Ablan, Justine Clarence Chua and Handy Lao. Said new councilors however were spared to the legislative inquiry as they were not yet a part of the City Council at the time when funds went missing.

For his part, Vice Mayor Michael Fariñas sent a letter to the SP dated Aug. 18 expressing the city council’s inability to attend the committee hearing saying, the saggunian “has done what it needs to do” and the request to investigate “has been accomplished.”

Earlier, City Mayor Chevylle Fariñas and her husband, former Mayor and now Vice Mayor Michael Fariñas were requested by the same body to take a leave of absence while the Commission on Audit and the Bureau of Local Government Finance are conducting separate investigation but they refused to do so, citing they have anything to do with the missing funds.

“If they are really willing to shed light on the issue, they should come and attend the hearing,” said Board member Vincentito Lazo who earlier expressed his dismay through a privilege speech the loss of over the 85 million pesos that reportedly went unnoticed by its top executives since 2008.

As this developed, Provincial Board member Da Vinci Crisostomo, in his capacity as chair of the committee on laws introduce some amendments to Draft Resolution No. 2016-07-005 sponsored earlier by board member Lazo, this time, for the SP to conduct its own legislative inquiry as to what really transpired regarding the loss of multi-million funds from the coffers of the city government and the absconding of its treasurer Elena Asuncion.

Crisostomo clarified the SP investigation, which hopes to invite members of the Local Finance Committee of Laoag is meant specifically to enact a measure to protect taxpayers money and ensure that the same irregularity will not happen again among the 21 municipalities and 2 cities of Ilocos Norte in the future.

Apart from the SP investigation, the Office of the Ombudsman is also looking into the loss of the missing funds of Laoag. PNA/