THE Sandiganbayan lauded “ghostbusters” from the Ombudsman for exposing the payroll fraud involving non-existent job order (JO) and contract of service (COS) employees in the office of the late Quezon City Councilor Francisco Calalay Jr. even if nobody was left to be punished for the crime.
In a 110-page decision penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce B. Vivero, the anti-graft court’s Sixth Division said the late councilor is “blameworthy for the fraudulent scheme and the buck stops there.”
Associate Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and Karl B. Miranda concurred.
However, with the councilor’s death on December 19, 2016, the court dismissed the charges of one count of graft and 17 counts of falsification of public documents filed against him.
Calalay’s staff and liaison officer Flordeliza Alvarez was cleared of any liability as the court declared that she merely followed orders and had no direct participation in defrauding the city government.
Evidence presented during trial showed the councilor’s office submitted 30 names to the Quezon City vice mayor to be hired as JO or COS employees.
The said personnel were designated as district coordinators, office aides, or field inspectors receiving between P5,000 to P10,000 per month chargeable against Quezon City’s maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) budget.
In all, graft investigators said P2.2 million was paid out to the 30 who turned out to be non-existent or “phantom employees” from February to November 2010.
The court blamed the lack of checks and balance system in the city hall payroll that allowed Calalay an “unbridled discretion.”
Testifying in her own defense, Alvarez said she was given authorization to collect the pay envelope for 30 persons which she delivered directly to her boss.
There were no performance checks if the said persons actually reported for work or delivered the services that they were being paid for.
“No segregation of authorities and duties exists. Accused Calalay creates and maintains each ghost employee in the payroll system,” the court noted.
“Payroll fraud entailed fiscal losses. In 2010 alone, Quezon City Hall took a hit to the tune of P2.22 million on account of ghost employees. That was attributable to one erring councilor. In the long run, padding payroll ledgers with fictitious job contractors would inevitably bleed the bursary dry,” it added.