Laguna mayor to be charged over fake fund release orders
MANILA, Philippines – Criminal charges will be filed against a municipal mayor in Laguna and his cohorts for allegedly falsifying fund release orders for various projects worth P70 million.
In a press conference on Friday, March 13, National Bureau of Investigation-Anti Organized Transnational Crime Division (NBI-AOTCD) chief Manny Eduarte said they have gathered sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Pakil Mayor Vipops Charles Martinez.
Martinez allegedly used a fake Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) – a document issued by the national government's budget department – to convince contractors that public funds were on their way, and so it would be safe to advance the money to bag projects in his town.
NBI will also file charges against Martinez's alleged godson Jay Carreon and individuals "Bernard," "Col. Militar," and "Ryan," all identified as cohorts of the mayor.
They were all identified by another cohort, a certain Christine Joy Angelica Gonzales, who was arrested Thursday in Quezon City after a couple claimed they were fooled by the fake SARO. The couple, identified as Ariel Garcia and Irene Simbulan, claimed they were convinced to finance Martinez's projects, and that Gonzales was able to obtain more than P1 million from them as cash advance.
In their complaint, Simbulan said she met the cohorts, who were all looking for a financier or contractor for Martinez's alleged infrastructure projects in 2014. She was then introduced to Martinez, and then to Gonzales, who allegedly knew someone at the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and could help expedite the release of SARO for the projects.
On November 13, 2014, Martinez issued an authorization letter to allow Simbulan to transact for the SARO release. A month after, Gonzales handed to Simbulan the SARO worth P20 million. Simbulan presented SARO to Martinez then gave the mayor P100,000 as cash advance.
In January 2015, Simbulan was informed that another SARO worth P50 million intended for a medicines project was released by the DBM. She was also informed that she needed to cough up P5 million to secure the project, allegedly according to Martinez. The couple negotiated that the amount they need to release be lower to P2 million.
Simbulan gave an initial payment of P500,000 to Gonzales in February 2015 at Tiendesitas in Pasig City, then another P500,000 days after at Max’s Restaurant near Malacañang.
The latest transaction made the couple suspicious, and so they decided to verify at the Landbank of the Philippines the authenticity of the Notices of Funding of Check Issued (NCFIs) given by Martinez's group. The bank denied having issued the said NFCIs. They also verified the SARO with the DBM, which turned out to be fake.
"We received an information that Mayor Martinez said he'll return the P100,000 cut he got from the cash advance they got from the victims. We were able to establish that the transaction happened inside his office,” Eduarte said. – Rappler.com