Town Execs Face Graft Charges For Calamity Fund Irregularities

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – The mayor of Tubao and four other town officials are facing graft and corruption charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged irregularities in the use of funds intended for typhoon victims.
Mayor Dante Garcia, Vice- Mayor Jonalyn Fontanilla, Iluminada Samson, Tubao social welfare officer, and village chiefs Lolita Garcia and Almario Panelo are the respondents in the graft complaint filed by Geraldine Fontanilla, Ailyn Daisy Mamuyac, and Lolita Selga, all Tubao residents.
The complainants were recipients of the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development after their houses were destroyed by super typhoon “Lando” that struck the Ilocos Region sometime in October 2015.
The disaster victims said they were informed of the calamity aid in a meeting held by the town’s social welfare office after the typhoon.    
In their affidavit, the residents claimed that they received each a check with P10, 000 funds each but they said they only get P3, 000 cash while the P7,000 was allegedly left to the officials in exchange for construction materials.
“Upon receiving the check and about to go home, I and together with my other barangay mates were ordered by Barangay Captain Panelo to go to the house of Mayor Garcia to give thereat our checks to Barangay Captain Lolita Garcia and Vice- Mayor Fontanilla. We were made to sign in a yellow pad paper then receive the P3,000 cash and in return surrender our checks to them. We were required to get the P7, 000 as construction materials at the lumber or construction business of Mayor Garcia. I get ten GI sheets and six hardiflex plywood,” Geraldine Fontanilla, one of the complainants, said in her affidavit.
All three complainants have the same statements.
In an interview, Mayor Garcia and the four other officials vehemently denied the allegation, saying it was clearly fabricated and without factual basis.
The mayor and his co-accused submitted their counter-affidavit on September 27, 2017 after the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon issued a subpoena for them to answer the complaint which was filed on March 29, 2017.
“First of all, in my capacity as Mayor, I do not have any participation, direct or indirect, regarding the DSWD ESA that may have been awarded to the complainants. The DSWD did not coordinate with our office such assistance. When the award was given at Agoo, La Union, nobody in my office was requested to participate,” Garcia said in his affidavit.

Garcia said he does not have any knowledge in the manner by which the complainant used the P10, 000 calamity assistance because a photocopy of the checks show that they themselves acknowledged having received the cash equivalent.
“My signature or that of anyone of my staff does not appear on the checks. If it is true that they were required to give us their checks, the said checks must be able to show that I or anyone under my office received the cash equivalent,” he said.
He added that an inspection on the checks showed that nobody in his office, including him, encashed the checks.
“And contrary to the claim of the complainants, I do not own or operate any lumber or construction business. This shows that their claims are purely baseless and not worthy to be believed,” Garcia said, referring to the complainants.
In their counter-affidavit, Garcia asked the Ombudsman for the outright dismissal of the case for lack of merit.