First 'arrests' made in Cebu over alleged SAP anomalies

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A BARANGAY captain and his seven councilors, five barangay health workers and a parent leader were the first to be arrested in Cebu Province over alleged irregularities in the distribution of the social amelioration program (SAP) cash subsidy.

The barangay officials and employees of Tubod in Barili walked into the municipal police station and surrendered on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, after learning that a warrant for their arrest has been issued for violation of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

They were accompanied by Barili Mayor Julieto Flores and Brgy. Mantalongon parish priest Fr. Fiel Suico.

Barili Police Station Chief Capt. Romeo Caacoy said they served the arrest warrant on Tubod Barangay Capt. Aurelio Mabano, and his councilors Mercy Camonas, Romulo Omalay, Baleriano Mabano, Roy Tangarorang, Loreto Ejambre, Arthur Aranda and Carlo Emnace.

The barangay health workers who were arrested are Victoria Talara, Maricar Escabillas, Mary Jane Elizar, Modesta Mambinuyao and Ludy Tanudra.

Also arrested was Ruchina Panugaling, a parent leader of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

All are detained in the Barili Police Station. Bail has been set at P90,000 each.

“Charges were filed against them in May over alleged irregularities in the implementation of the social amelioration program,” Caacoy said.

The arrest warrant was issued by Judge Anabelle Robles of Branch 60 in Barili.

Trust

The Barili mayor said he believed that not all of the 14 arrested persons were directly involved in the alleged irregularities.

Flores said he still trusts the barangay officials and employees.

“Actually, I helped them because they are part of my group. They voluntarily surrendered,” he said.

“Not all (are guilty). Some are victims themselves. Some of them were surprised that they were included among the respondents. It will be up to them to answer the charges in court,” he added.

Flores said they were working on putting up bail for the 14 individuals.

As soon as they are released on bail, they are expected to return to work unless summoned by the court.

Flores stressed, however, that he will not tolerate any irregularities during his term.

He said the case prospered because the 14 respondents failed to respond to the complaints filed against them.

Mabano, the barangay captain, was accused of anomalies after his two children were listed among the SAP beneficialries.

Flores said Mabano should have addressed the allegations, especially if it’s true that his children were indigent and deserved to receive the cash assistance.

Under the SAP, only the 4Ps beneficiaries and other poor families are entitled to receive a cash assistance of P6,000 to P8,000 during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

“(This is a) lesson learned for our barangay officials. You should not ignore charges against you. You have to address any complaints,” Flores said.

To avoid similar incidents in the future, Flores urged barangay officials to avoid bias and stop playing favorites.

“We should deliver public services efficiently and avoid politicking. I would also like to request our brothers and sisters in Tubod to pray for their elected and appointed officials in this time of crisis,” Flores added.

Cooperation

Shalaine Lucero, Department of Social Welfare and Development Central Visayas (DSWD 7) assistant director, said her office is willing to cooperate in the proceedings.

She said they will provide any documents or clarifications, although she was still trying to get hold of the documents related to the case.

Lucero said she does not know why a 4Ps parent leader, who was among those who interviewed the SAP beneficiaries, was also charged by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

“She just conducted the interview and it was not her who decided who to include or not. She was just asked to help check the situation or background of a family listed as a candidate for being a beneficiary. The most that she can do is to give feedback,” she said.

Lucero said this is the first time that almost all of the officials of a barangay were issued a warrant of arrest over alleged SAP anomalies.

She hoped that the barangay officials would be able to justify their acts and answer the charges.

Last September, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) announced that nine barangay captains in Central Visayas had been

suspended for six months over irregularities in the distribution of the first tranche of the SAP cash subsidy.

Five are from Cebu. They are Patricio Soco of Brgy. Alang-Alang in Mandaue City, Ulysses Raganas of Brgy. Linao in Talisay City, Zosima Rojo of Brgy. Upper Natimao-an in Carmen, Norman Navarro of Brgy. Basak-San Nicolas in Cebu City and Ignacio Cortes II of Brgy. Centro, Mandaue City.

The other four are Rodolfo Simbajon of Brgy. Guio-ang in Guindulman, Bohol; Mario Lamanilao of Brgy. Calituban, Talibon, Bohol; Eugene Zamora of Brgy. Taloto, Tagbilaran City, Bohol; and Mercedita Uy of Brgy. Cancawas, San Jose, Negros Oriental. (BBT / ANV / WBS)