Taguig mayor faces rap for alleged ‘ghost employees’

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

(UPDATED) A PLUNDER complaint has been filed Wednesday against Taguig City Mayor Maria Laarni "Lani" Cayetano for allegedly maintaining over 3,000 ghost employees in 2012.

In a complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, lawyers from the Philippine Association for the Advocacy of Civil Liberties (PAACL) led by Rod Vera said Cayetano allegedly spent P314.25 million in public funds in 2012 to hire casual employees for three different programs.

The PACCL questioned the release of payment to the 3,188 employees based only on written daily time sheets instead of the regularly used biometric machines.

"The ineluctable conclusion is that the 3,188 personnel, or a majority thereof, are 'ghost' employees, with the purported salaries of these 'ghost' employees illegally used in the 2013 Elections were the respondents, the husband of Cayetano, Senator (Alan Peter) Cayetano and her brother-in-law, [Representative] Lino Edgardo Cayetano, were all candidates," the PAACL said in their complaint.

The group noted that Cayetano and the members of the City Council, conspired with one another "to commit the despicable act to the serious damage and prejudice of the government in the amount of P313,249 million and should therefore be charged with plunder."

Meanwhile, a separate complaint for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act has been filed against the Taguig mayor, her husband and the members of the city council for the alleged overprice in the purchase of 18 brand new multi-cabs using the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation of the senator.

The group said the P498,000 price tag of each vehicle is "grossly and unconscionably overpriced."

The group noted that based on market price for brand new multi-cabs, there was an alleged overprice of more than P300,000 per unit, or a total P5.4 million for the 18 units purchased.

"The amount used to purchase the multicabs could not have been disbursed by the city of Taguig without the concurrence and approval of the members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council) of Taguig during the year 2012," it added.

Also, the lawyers' group filed a separate graft complaint against Senator Cayetano, this time, due to the "sudden increase" of the lawmaker's net worth despite not having new "source of income".

They said that senator's net worth increased from P15.804 million in 2010 to P23.210 million in 2011.

"The substantial and inordinate increase of almost P7.5 million in his net worth in 2011 is clearly not justified by his income as a public servant and/ or his other business endeavors… where then did respondent Cayetano get his wealth? The ineluctable conclusion is that the substantial increase in respondent Cayetano's wealth is from the misuse of, and overpayments, from his PDAF," the group said.

Meanwhile, the camp of Mayor Cayetano accused Vice President Jejomar Binay for the filing of the "politically motivated" plunder and graft cases against her and her husband, who was three-term congressman of the Taguig-Pateros district.

In a statement release by the City Council of Taguig, Councilor Darwin Icay said Vera is a law school classmate of Makati City Representative Abigail Binay and the lawyers' group reportedly has close ties with the Vice President himself.

The councilor said the motive behind the filing of cases is clearly to distract from the ongoing Senate investigation into the controversial Makati City parking building, which was a project of Binay as then mayor of Makati and his son, Junjun, the current mayor of the city.

"The allegations are simply not true and this was clearly just meant to distract people from the Binay’s corruption hearing later today. We purchased new ambulances and emergency response vehicles as a long-term investment in the city. These new ambulances last longer, are safer, and retain their value for longer," Icay said.

He noted that the Commission on Audit itself had no question on the purchase of 18 multi-cabs funded by Senator Cayetano's PDAF "as part of their commitment to make every Taguigeno feel like a VIP."

Senator Cayetano, for his part, expressed willingness to resign if the camp of Vice President Binay can prove that there was overpricing in the multi-cabs purchased in Taguig City.

"Handa po akong magbitiw bilang senador kapag napatunayan nilang mayroon anomalya sa presyuhan ng multi-cab sa Taguig pero dapat ganuon din ang mga Binay. Dapat magbitiw din sila kung mapatunayan na sila ang mali," the senator from Taguig said.

Based on reports, the utilization of Cayetano's PDAF dated February 28, 2013, which shows that a total of P9 million was allotted for the purchase of 18 units of multi-cabs. The same report showed actual expenses to be P8.96 million, which meant that each unit had cost P489,000.

The unit cost of multi-cabs bought by Taguig City Government is more than double the cost of the multi-cabs purchased by Makati, which Binay detractors have also claimed as overpriced.

"Hindi pwedeng sabihin pareho dahil ang multi-cab namin ay brand new compared sa Makati na second hand lamang. And anybody can check the existing price in the market. Wala po kaming itinatago na multo," said Cayetano.

The senator pointed to the Binay family as the one behind the move to file graft charges against him and his wife.

Cayetano said this was how Vice President Binay responded to his challenge to face squarely the allegations hurled against him in the alleged overpricing of Makati City car park building.

In an interview, Cayetano said he is ready to face the accusations and will answer everything point by point, anywhere, anytime.

He said there is no point of comparison between the multi-cabs in Taguig and the multi-cabs in Makati.

"Kasinungalin 'yung mga sinabi nila na nagku compare sa multi-cabs ng Taguig at ng Makati dahil 'yung sa amin brand new 'yun at dahil ginagamit namin ito sa Taguig bilang ambulance at nilagyan din namin ito ng mga accessories na magagamit ng mga pasyente. 'Yung multi-cab nila puro second hand, considering na Makati ay premier city," the senator said. (With Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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