ORMOC CITY – A taxpayer and an electric consumer of this city has filed a complaint for graft and grave misconduct at the Ombudsman against Mayor Eric Codilla here for allegedly misusing P 50-million of the city’s royalty funds which she says should have been given to electric consumers and not used for the water project.
Mrs. Lourdes Samson told the Ombudsman that the mayor used his “influence and power” to circumvent the law covering the use of the royalty funds that the city gets as host community to the geothermal plants at Tongonan-Ormoc.
Samson’s complaint is related to the use of P 50-million of the royalty funds for the city’s waterworks project that has been ongoing for seven years now.
Samson said the law provides the funds are intended solely to subsidize the cost of electricity in host communities. Samson filed her complaint at the Ombudsman-Visayas on December 17, 2012 before graft investigator Fruto G. Teodorico III.
In her complaint, Mrs. Samson said she was accusing the mayor of using his power and influence over other city officials to release P 50-million of the subsidy funds for the water project instead of distributing it as subsidy to electric consumers like her.
In her 9-page complaint, she detailed that on April 6, 2005, the City Electrification Council that the mayor himself created recommended that “100% of the royalty received plus interest earned will be applied solely to lower the cost of electricity and not limited to 80% thereof. After all, the LGC merely prescribes that at least 80% of the royalty will be applied solely to lower the cost of electricity; it does not set any ceiling thereof. Hence, it was decided that the whole amount will be utilized in order to make the subsidy more meaningful and appreciable.”
The then 10th Sangguniang Panlungsod subsequently adopted the memorandum report, she noted, but three years later, the mayor “prompted and sought” its amendment “categorically asking” that 80% of the funds be “utilized for the repair and rehabilitation of the city’s water system.” That was in March 11, 2008, on the mayor’s second term.
In his request to amend the memorandum, the mayor makes reference to a letter to then Local Government Secretary Rolando V. Puno purportedly seeking approval to his proposal to which Rolando M. Acosta, director of the Bureau of Local Government Supervision of the Dept. of Interior and Local Government, “replied in a manner favorable” to Codilla.
By March 25, 2008, the City Electrification Council “effectively approved” the mayor’s proposal. Then, on May 22, 2008, the 11th SP approved the appropriation ordinance releasing P 50-million of royalty funds for the water project.
The complainant said the amendment was in direct violation of the provision of the Local Government Code stating that local governments shall share royalties from the use of their natural wealth to “inhabitants by way of direct benefits”.
This provision is further reiterated in the EPIRA and the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, providing that 80% of the royalty share of LGU’s from RE host communities “shall be used directly to subsidize the electricity consumption of end-users … whose monthly consumption do not exceed 100 kilowatt hours”.
The complainant said that the “clear and unequivocal provisions” notwithstanding, the mayor “manipulated” and caused the SP to “blatantly circumvent the same”.
The mayor, she said, had been trying to exculpate himself by explaining that “a large portion of the city’s population use electric water pumps which results in substantial consumption of electricity” but the “speciousness of his reasoning” is apparent when the following are considered: one, the waterworks project has not contributed to the reduction of the cost of electricity; second, the waterworks project has not even been finished up to now and as the “final nail in the coffin”, there have been allegations of sub-standard implementation of the project.
The mayor, Samson pointed out, has been justifying the issue that he sought the prior approval of the DILG before using the funds.
However, even the Commission on Audit, in its evaluation report of the utilization of the royalty funds dated July 12, 2012, contradicts this, noting that the DILG is not the proper agency to “approve” the use of the funds.
The COA notes that “repair and rehabilitation of water system is not among the non-subsidy schemes” as envisioned by the law. Furthermore, COA noted, the City did not comply with the provision that in case the proposed project is “alien to the specific non-subsidy schemes enumerated”, that a proposal be submitted to the National Electrification Administration (NEA) for evaluation.
The Department of Justice has also stated in a legal opinion that the use of the funds for the water project “have no legal basis and are outside the coverage of the said laws”.
City councilor Claudio Larrazabal, who was a member of Codilla’s camp in the 11th SP when the P 50-million was released, said that he always felt there was something wrong with the proposed amendment and took no part in the approval of the appropriation ordinance when it was passed.
He said he’s had shouting matches over the issue with Vice-Mayor Nepumoceno P. Aparis I, a lawyer, and that as a show of his displeasure over the matter, did not attend two special meetings that the mayor called to discuss it. “That money was for all, and not for just a few of us to decide how to dispose of”, he said, adding that the law was clear on how it should be used.
At 5:53 PM of January 6 (Sunday), a text message from this newspaper was sent to Mayor Eric Codilla for his reaction on the issue but as of press time, 11:10 PM, he has not replied as yet. By Lalaine M. Jimenea