COA calls out Carcar City for buying lots from Apuras

·4 min read

FORMER Carcar City vice mayor Nicepuro Apura and his wife, former mayor Mercedita Apura, could be facing charges for violating the state’s anti-graft law after they were found to have earned more than P10.6 million, including interests, in several land acquisitions conducted by their administration in 2021.

The couple’s alleged illegal transactions were uncovered in a report made by the Commission on Audit (COA) on Carcar City’s finances and transactions in 2021. But in their reply to COA, the city officials explained that the compensation paid for the two parcels of land purchased from the Apuras was lower than the fair market value.

In an interview with SunStar Cebu on Sunday, July 24, 2022, the former vice mayor explained that while he and his wife benefitted from the transaction, the properties that they had sold to the City were not made idle as these were used eventually for the construction of a diversion road and other important areas, including that of the new Carcar City Center.

Though he has yet to read the actual report, incumbent Carcar City Mayor Patrick Barcenas told SunStar Cebu that he intends to discuss the matter with the City Council before his administration would take any appropriate action.

Findings

After reviewing disbursement vouchers, state auditors discovered that the Carcar City Government under the Apuras paid more than P22.8 million to acquire several parcels of land through negotiated purchases that were not supported with complete documentary requirements.

“The submission of the lacking documentary requirements is necessary to establish that the transactions actually transpired and were valid, legal and proper,” state auditors added.

State auditors also found out that the Apuras owned the City-acquired two parcels of land worth P4.45 million and P6.18 million. They said the properties were acquired by City as part of the new Carcar City Center, which is located within Barangays Poblacion 3 and Valladolid.

The properties’ acquisition was a result of an ordinance passed by the Carcar City Council dated Oct. 22, 2019, declaring an area of more or less 43.59 hectares, around 50 percent of which is owned by the Carcar City Government.

Not the first time

This wasn’t the first time that COA had called the City’s attention for selling properties to the Apuras.

In 2020, the Carcar City Government paid Nicepuro P7.8 million to acquire one of his properties.

After they found that the Apuras allegedly benefitted from the land acquisition, state auditors said this constituted as a violation of several laws including Republic Act (RA) 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; RA 7160 or the Local Government Code; and Section 108 of Presidential Decree 1445, or the Government Auditing Code.

Aside from urging the current administration to submit lacking documents for evaluation, state auditors also urged local officials to provide a valid written justification on the violations mentioned in their report. They also recommended to the current administration to desist from engaging in any business transactions that are prohibited by law.

Just compensation

In a separate interview, Nicepuro said that while he and his wife benefitted from the sale, the properties that they sold off to the City Government eventually were made into what is now the diversion road, and a portion of the new Carcar City Center stands on the property sold by the Apuras to the City.

He said it was only coincidental that their properties were affected by the City’s ongoing development of the Carcar City Center.

“Nagtukod man gud ang City ato og diversion road ug naigo lang gyud among yuta sa development. Dili man gud maka-proceed ang project kung dili mapalit ang property,” the former vice mayor said.

(The City was constructing a diversion and our property was affected by the development. The project could not proceed if the property was not acquired.)

He added that aside from him, some private property owners who owned lots that were affected by the Carcar City Center project had to give up these properties to the city but were compensated.

Nicepuro said it was also unfair for them to not get paid, citing Article 3, Section 9 of the Constitution which states that “private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation.” He, however, clarified that he and his wife had no intention to sell their properties to the City as a “form of business.”

He also questioned COA for calling their attention now when in previous related transactions that the City conducted, state auditors never called their attention.

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