Martires was addressing barangay captains who may be misusing or even pocketing public funds meant to help those affected by the coronavirus disease crisis in their respective communities.
STAR/File
Ombudsman warns barangay execs vs COVID fund misuse
Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - April 20, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman warned barangay officials over the weekend that they could not hide behind the skirts of their higher-ups in local government regarding the misuse of public funds amid a pandemic.

“If some of you are under the impression that your mayor or governor or congressman can protect you, you better think twice,” Samuel Martires said.

Martires was addressing barangay captains who may be misusing or even pocketing public funds meant to help those affected by the coronavirus disease crisis in their respective communities.

He told The STAR that no one could protect erring village officials if they are found to be toying with government money – not even those who hold higher positions, the ones whom they usually run to for help or cover up for them when they are in trouble.

Martires said the anti-graft agency is monitoring the situation and has been receiving a lot of complaints, mostly against village officials, adding that he also has personally heard about the misuse of funds by local government units (LGUs) and the barangay.

The Office of the Ombudsman, he stressed, “will personally conduct the audit” of public funds alleged to have been misused or misappropriated at the proper time.

“Hindi ito ang panahon ng pagsasamantala (This is not the time to take advantage),” he emphasized, echoing President Duterte’s warning against local officials tasked to reach out to those in need and affected by the pandemic and the current lockdown.

Under the law, public officials who misuse public funds may face both criminal and administrative charges including plunder, graft and malversation of public funds.

Meanwhile, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año ordered governors to effectively utilize the P6.197-billion Bayanihan grant to provinces amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying all 81 of them should lead the fight against the crisis in their turfs.

“Time is of the essence in this time of crisis. I urge the governors to utilize the BGP in a quick and efficient way and at the same time be transparent and accountable in its use to address the COVID-19 crisis in their respective localities,” he said in a statement.

The grant can be used for the procurement of personal protective equipment, COVID-testing kits, medicine, hospital equipment and disinfection supplies.

It may also be used for food, transportation and accommodation expenses for health workers, as well as the construction or leasing of spaces for the use of COVID patients.

The grant can only be used within the duration of the state of calamity and any unutilized money will be reverted to the National Treasury. – With Romina Cabrera

BARANGAY OFFICIALS OMBUDSMAN
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