Abra whistleblower now wanted

The Inbox

By Artha Kira Paredes, VERA Files

BANGUED, Abra — The whistleblower who has filed a complaint of plunder against two members of one of Abra's most powerful clans now faces arrest after they turned the tables on her and sued her for falsification of documents.

A warrant for the arrest of Bernadine Joson, who served as Municipal Planning and Development Officer and concurrent Sangguniang Bayan Secretary of Lagayan town, has been in force for the past six months.

Almost a year ago, Joson accused former Congresswoman Cecilia Seares-Luna and her son former Lagayan mayor and the town's incumbent Association of Barangay Captains President Jendricks Luna of pocketing some P133 million in public funds.  She filed a case before the Ombudsman, which is conducting its initial investigation. (Read related stories here: Lagayan, Abra: 'Big-time corruption in a small town' and Charges filed vs Lunas of Abra)

The warrant was issued by Branch 2 Regional Trial Court presiding judge Corpus Alzate on March 8 this year.  It has a recommended bail of P24,000. Purificacion Paingan, the mayor of Lagayan and Cecilia's aunt is listed as case witness.

Several annexes were included in the case, one of which is the grave conduct and gross dishonestly complaint filed by Lagayan SB officials against Joson before the Civil Service Commission (CSC) of the Cordillera Administrative Region.

In the complaint filed October last year, the Lunas accused Joson of falsifying an SB resolution dated March 10, 2011 that asked Department of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima to relieve and transfer Lagayan Municipal Treasurer Marissa Donato for "betrayal of public trust and graft and corruption."

SB members whose names appear on the said resolution claim that they never enacted it. They filed the affidavit complaint at the CSC and they are George T. Bayle, George B. Sequerra, Aguinaldo B. Ruben, Beda D. Pacis, Cleofas C. Pariñas, Romel D. Bilong, Jereme N. Cachero and Tomas P. Layao.

In their affidavit, they said their signatures in the resolution are "forgeries" and that Joson prepared and signed the resolution in their behalf "in order to initiate the transfer" of Donato "due to her personal difference with the said municipal official."

Complainants further asked that Joson's benefits "be forfeited in favor of the government and for her perpetual disqualification to work (in) any government office or agency."

Also annexed is a court decision in a criminal against Joson's husband Isagani. Her husband was found guilty of murder in 1996 but has reportedly served his time.

Joson served as Lagayan planning and development officer from 1998 to early 2011. She used to be a member the Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Government (CCAGG), a renowned anti-corruption nongovernment organization, which was established after the first EDSA revolution.

It is widely speculated here that Joson will run for public office in next year's midterm elections. Members of the Luna family are also said to be vying for different posts in at least three towns.

Immediate members of the Luna family remain entrenched in local politics. Aside from Jendricks, Ryan, Cecilia's son was elected mayor of the provincial capital of Bangued. Her daughter Haya Lara is Lagayan Vice Mayor, son Buc Roger Barangay Captain of Dangdangla, Bangued and mother Anita Seares Barangay Captain of Bai, Lagayan.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")