In a 15-page resolution dated March 7 and obtained by The STAR, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon found probable cause to charge Umali before the Sandiganbayan with violation of Section 3 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 19 of RA 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Reduction and Management Act.
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Graft raps ordered filed vs ex-Ecija governor
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - June 8, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the filing of graft charges against former Nueva Ecija governor Aurelio Umali over the allegedly illegal repacking and distribution of relief goods from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) supposedly to advance his and his political party’s agenda in the 2016 elections.

In a 15-page resolution dated March 7 and obtained by The STAR, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon found probable cause to charge Umali before the Sandiganbayan with violation of Section 3 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 19 of RA 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Reduction and Management Act.

Ordered charged with Umali were several other former and incumbent officials, including former Cabanatuan City vice mayor Emmanuel Antonio Umali; former councilor Gabriel Calling; incumbent Councilor Johnero Mercado; village chairmen Ramon Garcia and Richard Medina of Barangay Barlis and Barangay Mayapyap in Cabanatuan City, respectively; provincial economist Leoncio Daniel; provincial administrative officer Emelita Muyot; provincial social welfare officer Fannie Bugayong; provincial nutrition officer Lutgarda Domingo; social welfare aide Irenea Palma and bookbinder Teresa Castelo.

The other respondents were private individuals Edna Bolisay, Melchor Morales, Caesar Cipriano, Joel Del Mundo, Fortune Ferdinand Eusebio, Mary Antonette Feliciano and Jovic Hernandez.

The ombudsman’s resolution stemmed from a complaint filed by Josephine Libunao on June 30, 2016. 

Ombudsman probers said their investigation showed that Umali, in conspiracy with the other officials, allegedly repacked the relief goods received from the DSWD in 2016 to make it appear that they came from his political party. 

The ombudsman said the relief goods, which were supposed to be distributed to typhoon victims, were repacked in white, unlabeled plastic bags and distributed in a gift-giving activity organized by Umali’s party in various barangays in Nueva Ecija.

“By removing the goods from the DSWD boxes and repacking them in unlabeled plastic bags and placing them in blue sacks before distributing them so close to the elections and wearing their party shirts, gave the impression that the goods were from their party and not sourced from the DSWD,” the ombudsman’s ruling read.

“The respondents presented no evidence that they purchased the goods themselves. Umali’s denial is without credence. For denial to be believed, it must be buttressed by strong evidence,” it added.

The ombudsman gave weight to the testimonies of DSWD provincial officials, who said that their personnel did not conduct the repacking and that such act was not authorized by their office.

The ombudsman pointed out that then DSWD secretary Dinky Soliman said that repacking or division of relief goods without authority from the social welfare department was illegal.

“The respondents gave themselves, their political party and their partymates unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference when they distributed the goods to their constituents, making it appear that they procured the goods from other sources and were not provided by the DSWD,” the anti-graft agency said.

Nueva Ecija Police Office-Provincial Public Safety Company chief Ricardo Villanueva, local social welfare officer Aurora Macapagal and provincial home management technologist Romesita Flores were cleared of the charges for lack of probable cause.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved the resolution on April 6 based on the recommendation of Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer II Rio Rose Santos and Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard Mosquera.

Umali ran for congressman under the Liberal Party in the May 2016 elections but he lost to Rosanna Vergara of the Nationalist People’s Coalition. Umali was a three-term governor of Nueva Ecija. He was replaced by his wife, former Nueva Ecija Third District representative Czarina Umali.

AURELIO UMALI DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE AND DEVELOPMENT OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN
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