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Ombudsman dismisses graft charges vs Cotabato town exec, 3 others

Local News • 01:17 AM Wed Mar 2, 2016
Malu C. Manar
Magpet Vice Mayor Efren Pinol meets some of his supporters during a gathering. (From Efren Pinol's FB page)

KIDAPAWAN CITY --After three years, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the graft charges filed against a municipal vice-mayor in North Cotabato and three of his former staff for lack of probable cause or insufficiency of evidences. The respondents received copies of the Ombudsman’s decision early this week. Magpet vice-mayor Efren Pinol, one of those charged of malversation, technical malversation, and violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, said he felt vindicated after he learned the Ombudsman dismissed the criminal offenses filed against him and three of his former staff. Also charged were Erly Baudi, former budget officer Jocelyn Semillano, former municipal accountant Donald Homez, former general services officer and resident auditor from the Commission on Audit (CoA) Alma Ba-ay. For three years, I had those sleepless nights.I was always told by my opponents during their campaign sorties anywhere in town that sooner I would rot in jail.But it didn’t happen.God knows I didn’t do any wrong against my people,” said Pinol. The complaints, filed in 2013 by Magpet Mayor Florenito Gonzaga, stemmed from the alleged malversation of some P3.2 million disaster funds. With Gonzaga as complainants were town and barangay officials, including, Marilyn Mamon, Jun Lobaton, Rogelio Maranon, Ramiel Apostol, Manuel Aboy, Jr., Vicental Yunting, Godfrey Acupan, Elmar Manuba, Sr., and Antonio Takinan. The complainants alleged that there was an irregularity when Pinol, with help from staff, released such amount taken from the 2013 Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Programs (MDRRMP) Funds. They also accused CoA resident auditor Ba-ay of conniving with Pinol when she refused to include the assailed disbursements in her post-audit of the accounts and operations of the local government of Magpet for 2013. Evidence on records, however, is insufficient and thus, failed to prove that there was probable cause for illegal use of public funds or technical malversation, based on the decision penned by Anna Francesca Limbo, graft investigation and prosecution officer II of the Office of the Ombudsman. Pinol, who held the position as town mayor for nine years, ended his last term in June 2013. Gonzaga assumed post in July 2013. Gonzaga and Pinol are both running as mayor in Magpet town for May 2016 elections.

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