By Czarina Nicole O. Ong
The Office of the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal of Cabanatuan Vice Mayor Emmanuel Antonio Umali and 10 others for their involvement in the alleged anomalous repacking and distribution of relief goods in 2016.
Aside from Umali, found administratively liable for grave misconduct, grave abuse of authority, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service were city councilors Gabriel Calling and Johnero Mercado, Barangay Barlis Chairman Ramon Garcia, Barangay Mayapyap Sur Chairman Richard Medina, Economist III Leoncio Daniel, Administrative Officer V Emelita Muyot, Social Welfare Officer I Fannie Bugayong, Nutrition Officer II Lutgarda Domingo, Bookbinder Teresa Castelo, and Social Welfare Aide Irenea Palma.
Aside from dismissal, the penalty also carries cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of recruitment benefits, perpetual disqualification from holding public office, and barred from taking civil service examinations.
Those who are no longer in service must pay a fine in the amount equivalent to a year’s salary.
Umali and the respondents reportedly conspired in the unauthorized repacking and distribution of relief goods from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in January 2016.
The relief goods were reportedly opened, repacked and transferred to white plastic bags without the “DSWD” label at the PPSC, Nueva Ecija Provincial Police Office in Burgos Avenue, Cabanatuan City.
A few days after repacking the goods, the respondents reportedly distributed these in a gift-giving activity to residents of Barangays Camp Tinio, Macatbong, Bagong Buhay, San Roque Sur, and MS Garcia for the purpose of “advancing their political interests in the May, 2016 elections.”
The respondents wore campaign shirts and gave speeches during the gift-giving activity.
In their counter-affidavits, the respondents argued that the repacking photos submitted by the complainant were not connected with the gift-giving activity.
But the Ombudsman found “substantial evidence” that the respondents repacked the goods from DSWD.
“By removing the goods from the DSWD boxes and placing them in unlabeled white bags and sorting them into blue sacks with pink or white stripes, respondents made it appear that the goods were sourced elsewhere and not from the DSWD,” the decision read.
“While they claimed that the relief goods distributed at the event were not sourced from the DSWD, they presented no evidence to show that they sourced them elsewhere or purchased the goods themselves. In fact, said respondents made no categorical statements in their pleadings as to the source of the goods,” it added.
Meanwhile, the complaint against Nueva Ecija Governor Aurelio Umali and private individuals Edna Bolisay, Melchor Morales, Caesar Cipriano, Joel Del Mundo, Fortune Eusebio, Mary Antonette Feliciano, and Jovic Hernandez were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.