Balili lot purchase issue: Mystery looms over voucher

- Fred Languido () - September 16, 2009 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Cebu Provincial Government made the full payment of P98.9 million for the 24.7 hectare-Balili property last October 2, 2008 yet, but who prepared the payment voucher remains a mystery.

None of the Capitol officials who processed and approved the payment voucher could tell who prepared it.

The members of the ad hoc committee of the provincial board conducting a fact-finding investigation into the Balili fiasco called last Monday the officials, whose signatures appeared in the payment voucher, but not one of them could tell where the voucher came from.

The payment vouchers for the P98.9 million property in Tinaan, Naga were processed at the Provincial Budget Office, Treasurer’s office and even passed through the internal audit to ensure that the disbursement of funds is valid before the checks were issued for the approval of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia. But no one knows where the voucher came from.

The Capitol issued the first check to Romeo Balili, the executor of the Balili estate, amounting to P49,849,200 dated April 28, 2008, but released on May 21.

The full payment was made on October 2, 2008 after the deed of sale was issued on June 11, 2008.

Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre earlier told the members of the committee that he does not know who prepared the payment vouchers.

However, as a standard practice at the Capitol it is the requisitioning office that prepares the voucher. It was not however clear, which office is the requesting party in the Balili transaction because nobody is willing to point fingers or admit.

Budget Officer Emmy Gingoyon and internal audit chief Manny Gial, whose offices also got hold of the payment voucher, could not also tell who prepared it.

Provincial Board Member Jose Maria Gastardo said the refusal of the department heads to tell, who prepared the vouchers, is an indication that “people are afraid to be caught in the crossfire.”

Gastardo warned them that by shielding whoever is responsible in the preparation of the voucher makes them also culpable.

Gastardo believes that the department heads are trying to cover up something.

The board member from the 4th District said they want to establish who prepared the payment voucher, because it was earlier admitted by Salubre that it was irregular that the payee was Atty. Romeo Balili when it should have been Balili estate, the owner of the property.

There is however an indication that the office of Provincial Board member Juan Bolo might have prepared the payment vouchers.

Susana Cañada, one of the staff of Bolo, was called by the committee last Monday to explain why she certified copies of the vouchers.

Cañada was questioned on the basis of her certifying the payment vouchers. She explained that when the first payment was made, the original documents were attached so when the second payment came, the documents that came with it were photocopies.

She said the pre-audit asked her to certify the photocopied documents.

Gastardo said if it is established that the vouchers were also prepared in Bolo’s office, it will fuel the insinuations that he really had an interest in the transaction more than the sale of the property.

Gastardo said this will add to suspicions that Bolo really had a special interest in it, because he facilitated the transaction, he sponsored the authority of the governor, he made the follow-up and the payment was even made inside his office.

Bolo who admitted having facilitated the purchase of the Balili property, is in the heart of the controversy after it was found out that more than 20 hectares of the land is underwater or planted with mangroves.

Bolo has been blamed by his colleagues and even Garcia for the fiasco. – /NLQ (THE FREEMAN)

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