Rice donation to DSWD a case of malversation?

Jean Marvette A. Demecillo (The Freeman) - September 22, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  The release of 50 sacks of commercial rice under the Cebu City’s Peace and Order Program to the Department of Social Welfare and Services may constitute technical malversation.

This was the stand of the City Legal Office when asked of its comments and recommendations on the propriety if the city may realign the giving of sacks of rice supposedly for habalhabal drivers to families affected by fire incidents in the city.

“This Office does not recommend the release of 50 sacks of commercial rice under the Peace and Order Program to the Department of Social Welfare and Services for relief distribution to the fire victims of Lahug, Cebu City as the same may constitute technical malversation,” reads portion of the legal opinion.

The opinion was penned by Atty. Stephanie Claros and was approved by City Attorney Rey Gealon.

In the legal opinion, it was cited that the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a mayor in a Municipality of Leyte after four sacks of rice and two boxes of sardines was given to the Core Shelter Assistance program when it was intended for the supplemental feeding program.

The giving of city’s rice subsidies was supposedly for the habalhabal or Angkas drivers. It was made pursuant to an Executive Order by the previous administration after the SC issued a temporary restraining order on the operations of the motorcycle-hailing app resulting to the loss of livelihood of the habalhabal drivers.

“The Local Government Code prohibits the use of funds other than for the specific purpose for which it was appropriated but, as an exception, allows the use of savings from one item to augment deficiencies in another item in the budget of an office. However, savings is traditionally understood in relation to appropriations of money that is still unspent,” reads portion of the opinion.

It cited Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code which states that “any public officer who shall apply any public fund or property under his administration to any public use other than that for which such fund or property were appropriated by law or ordinance shall suffer the penalty of prison correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from one-half to the total of the sum misapplied, if by reason of such misapplication, any damage or embarrassment shall have resulted to the public service. In either case, the offender shall also suffer the penalty of temporary special disqualification.”

The funds under the POP program were appropriated for the following items such as; payment of the allowances of city fiscals, regional state prosecutors, and other law enforcement agencies, training expenses of the police, military and police supplies expense for their ammunition, security services of the Barangay Peacekeeping action team, confidential expenses, anti-drug campaign, among others.

The legal office believed that it was not clear which item funded the rice subsidies for the habalhabal or Angkas drivers but the rice stocks should be used for the purpose for which the item was appropriated.

To recall, Councilors Nestor Archival and Lea Japson questioned the propriety of giving the sacks of rice supposedly for the habalhabal drivers but will be given to the fire victims.

They were the one who asked for the deferment of the approval of the request of the executive department as the city officials may be charged of technical malversation or illegal use of public funds. — JMD (FREEMAN)

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