THE PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) yesterday said it has received a total of 300 complaints against 916 local government officials in connection with alleged irregularities in the distribution of the emergency cash aid under the Special Amelioration Program from April 1 to July 10.
Of the number of complaints filed, the CIDG said 201 have been filed in court, 51 are still under investigation, five are being readied for filing and six have been referred to other agencies.
It said it could not pursue charges against 37 officials as the complainants have already shown lack of interest after getting their cash subsidies.
The complaints were filed by 619 individuals.
The SAP targeted more than 18 million low income families to cushion the impact of the lockdowns imposed by the government as a contamination strategy against COVID-19. It was established under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act as a form of government assistance to families who were economically impacted by the pandemic.
The first tranche was distributed in April. The distribution of the second tranche is still ongoing.
Qualified SAP recipients were given P5,000 to P8,000 in cash, depending on the computation of the daily minimum wage of their locality.
The CIDG said that its Regional Field Units (RFU) in Central Mindanao (Region 12) received the most number of complaints at 50, followed by its RFU in Central Visayas (Region 7) and Southern Tagalog (Region 4A) with 31 and 28 cases, respectively.
The CIDG said its RFU in Western Visayas (Region 6) filed the most number of cases in court at 24, next was Eastern Visayas (Region 8) with 24 cases filed, and Central Mindanao with 22 cases filed.
Recently, cases for violation of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act were filed by the CIDG before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro and Antique Provincial Prosecutor Office against the barangay chairman and two barangay councilors of barangay Villa Cervesa, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro; and three Sangguniang Barangay members from Belison, Antique.
Based on the complaint, the respondents from barangay Villa Cervesa, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro took a cut from the cash aid received by the complainants allegedly intended to support other indigenous people or the “Mangyans” who excluded from the program, while the SB from Antique used their positions for their own personal gain by submitting a list of SAP beneficiaries who were not qualified.
Government auditors will go through the government’s handling of public funds during the COVID-19 pandemic with a fine-tooth comb, including the payout of the P200 billion SAP package, the economic stimulus package, and the procurement and distribution of relief goods.
Speaking as a resource person in a webinar spearheaded by the Commission on Audit – Regional Office No. 9 last July 9, Commissioner Roland C. Pondoc highlighted the role of the COA in ensuring transparency and accountability even as the agency avoids creating a bottleneck in the government’s response to the pandemic.
“There will be adjustments in our normal audit practices and I hope we will be able to identify the important points that we need to consider to continue our functions and roles as employees of COA. We need to transition through unique challenges to ensure continued transparency and accountability without becoming a bottleneck,” he reminded the 344 participants from COA RO 9.
Pondoc reminded auditors that “the risk of fraud is always present but is elevated during emergency cases” as he urged a closer look at all government procurement transactions to ensure that they tally with actions taken during the COVID 19 emergency.
Likewise, he emphasized the need for coordination with accountability agencies. COA has existing agreements with the Office of the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice, and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission on access to data. – With Peter Tabingo