GENERAL SANTOS CITY (May 7) – An anti-corruption watchdog in nearby Sarangani last week filed a complaint of grave misconduct against Gov. Steve Solon, Vice Governor Jinkee Pacquiao and two provincial board members before the Office of the Ombudsman.
The complaint stemmed from the continued release of salaries and other benefits of Board Members Eugene Alzate and Cornelio Martinez Jr who were convicted by the Sandiganbayan for malversation of public funds.
Alzate and Martinez were sent to the Bilibid National Prison immediately after the promulgation of their life imprisonment sentence handed by the anti-graft court on January 30, 2014.
In the complaint signed by priests Fr. Raul Valle, Fr. Antonio Chua, UCCP pastors Rev. Avelino Sichon and Gil Almarez and Felix Montallana, they alleged that despite the Sandiganbayan conviction, Alzate and Martinez continues to draw their salaries from the provincial government upon the approval of acting vice governor Hermie Galzote for the month February and a certification from Board Member Elmer de Peralta that the two have rendered services for March, all of this year.
Vice Gov. Jinkee Pacquiao was on maternal leave during that time. She gave birth to her fifth child with Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao on April 27.
In March, Gov. Solon was earlier quoted as saying it might not be fair for the convicted Sarangani officials to deny them of their benefits “because their case is under appeal.”
Calls made to the governor’s mobile phone were not answered in an effort o get his side on the complaints filed against him and the vice governor.
Fr. Valle and his group filed their complaint in behalf of Sarangani People’s Action for Reform and Good Governance (SPAREGO), an anti-graft watchdog organized in 2003 following the discovery of massive corruption in the province.
SPAREGO, then headed by the late Fr. Fred Maghanoy and Sichon, filed several charges of graft and corruption against virtually all public officials in the province and department heads, accusing them of fleecing the provincial coffers of some P43 million in a span of less than 3 years.
Two whistleblowers detailed how then Alzate and ten other members of the provincial board, including the late Vice Gov. Felipe Constantino, used the Community Development Fund (CDF) of the late Sarangani Rep. Erwin Chiongbian to fund their supposed study tour to Cebu, in time for his wedding.
Alzate and the rest of his co-accused, including Escobar were earlier found to be administratively liable by the Office of the Ombudsman and was perpetually barred from running for and holding public office.
Alzate filed his appeal that enabled him to run 2010 and win back his seat in the provincial board running uner the People’s Champ Movement of Rep. Manny Pacquiao.
SPAREGO also has filed separate cases against former Gov. Miguel Escobar and several other high-ranking provincial employees for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The corruptions scandal that hit Sarangani in 2003 has all the shades of the Napoles pork barrel scam.
Like the pork barrel scam, whistleblowers Mary Ann Gadian and Sheryll Desiree Tangan detailed how the Sarangani provincial officials also used bogus cooperatives and organizations to channel and funnel funds for their own personal use.
They also used ghost beneficiaries and forged signatures to obtain the releases of government funds.
The fund scam led to the defeat of Escobar and his group in the 2004 elections.